It’s no wonder the “squad” and its four freshmen congressional members must have come together so closely in the last couple of years. Not only do they have the same ideas on policy and politics, but they also seem to have a penchant for violating campaign finance laws and ethics. Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan has become the third member accused of such in the past year.
On Wednesday, the House Ethics Committee found the Detroit lawmaker guilty of breaking House campaign financing laws, basically for paying herself a salary after she ran for office in 2018. For her “crime,” she is being fined $10,800.
Now, to be clear, paying yourself a salary while trying to run for a congressional office is not against the law or House rules.
Per a rule that the Federal Elections Commission implemented in 2002, those vying for office are allowed to take some of their campaign funds as salary while they are campaigning – within reason, of course.
It was designed as a way to more easily allow candidates who may not come from deep pockets and aren’t already in Congress to effectively run. These individuals are allowed to pay themselves either the equivalent of their previous year’s salary or the amount they would make as a member of Congress ($174,000) – whichever is less.
As Tlaib was a newcomer to the federal office, although not state office, she took advantage of this rule. And she was not the only one to do so. In fact, during the 2018 congressional election campaigns, a total of 22 would-be lawmakers used this rule so that they could effectively take time off at work to run for office.
Omar Navarro of southern California was one such individual. Navarro, as a Republican, was running a long-shot campaign against long-time Democrat Representative Maxine Waters.
But as an “online marketeer and as an electronics salesman at a Target store,” Navarro’s ability to stay in the running while also still making any sort of a paycheck was something of a difficulty.
Navarro chose to pay himself a measly $24,583.04 as a salary during his campaign, according to the Daily Breeze.
Now, as you well know, Waters is still in office, which means Navarro didn’t make it to Congress. In fact, I’d be surprised if you have even heard of him. The only reason that you may have is that, after the election, he was heavily criticized for taking even that small amount.
Kathay Feng of the California Common Cause said the act was “highly irregular” and that it was a bad look to voters.
Tlaib, on the other hand, did make it to Congress. But she wasn’t harassed about taking a salary for herself. If anything, she was praised for it. Another member of the California Common Cause, Paul Ryan, noted that is was “not uncommon” for candidates to do such, and it was a “good thing” that this option is available to them.
According to the Washington Free Beacon, Tlaib took about $45,000 for herself during her campaign.
Before you ask, the amount isn’t a problem. While higher than the funding Navarro took, Tlaib’s previous salary as a lawyer entitled her to more.
No, the problem arises when we look at the timing of her payments to herself. You see, $17,500 of that was paid to her after the election was won, which means she was no longer a candidate and, therefore, no longer in need of a campaign-funded salary.
The finance litigators in the House Ethics Committee refer to this as a “big no-no.” however, while found guilty, Tlaib got little more than a slap on the wrist.
The committee noted that while the was indeed in violation of House rules, it was “one of bad timing,” and not “ill intent.” They “did not find that she sought to unjustly enrich herself by receiving the campaign funds.” Instead, “these payments allowed her to forego her salary from her full-time employment so that she could fully participate in campaign activities.”
You know so that she could win with 84.2% of the vote against no Republican challenger or an incumbent in a district pretty much guaranteeing her success. I mean, how much work did she actually have to do to win this?
Tlaib’s punishment: pay back a measly $10,800 to her own campaign. I’m betting she wouldn’t have even gotten this if the committee wasn’t bipartisan. Navarro, a Republican, was nearly accused of breaking the law just for taking the money, and he did it all right.
Tlaib didn’t, and not a word was even mentioned until someone found out about her “little mistake.”
But that’s the double standard world we, unfortunately, live in.