A Democratic congressman spent thousands in campaign funds at a private golf club despite already being under investigation for doing just that, federal records show.
There is “substantial reason to believe” Georgia Rep. Sanford Bishop violated federal law and House rules after he directed over $90,000 to Green Island Country Club and other entities, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) said in January 2020. But Bishop has continued to direct payments to the golf club — which is located in Columbus, Georgia — spending roughly $71,200 for “facility usage, golf packages and catering” in both September 2021 and June 2022, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) records.
“The referenced payment was for the direct costs of the Sanford Bishop Golf Classic, a specific campaign fundraising event held annually at the Green Island Country Club, and attended on August 16, 2021, by more than 200 people,” a spokesman for Bishop told the Washington Examiner, which first reported on the latest payments, in connection to the 2021 payment.
Bishop, who according to the Examiner accepted blame for his prior payments dating back to 2014 during interviews with OCE, reimbursed his campaign committee more than $66,000 in July 2020, FEC records show. OCE referred Bishop’s payments to the House Ethics Committee, which is ran by members of Congress and adjudicates violations, but the committee has not taken any action.
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Bishop, who is running for re-election in 2022, is reportedly in “Georgia’s only competitive congressional race,” according to Axios. He told OCE investigators in 2020 that attending the golf resort starting in 2014 gave him access to “a segment of the public that I didn’t … I wouldn’t rub shoulders with on the street,” according to a published 2020 interview transcript with OCE, the Examiner reported.
Attending the club also gave him access to “CEOs, retired CEOs, chairman of bank boards, you know that type of thing,” said the congressman, according to the Examiner.
It is illegal for campaign funds to be put toward country club membership dues, according to the FEC.
“Campaign funds may not be used to pay for dues to country clubs, health clubs, recreational facilities or other nonpolitical organizations unless the payments are made in connection with a specific fundraising event that takes place on the organization’s premises,” the FEC says on its website.
OCE spokesman William Beaman declined the DCNF’s request for comment and the House Ethics Committee did not respond. Bishop’s office did not respond to a request for comment.