It pays to be married to the "Squad."
As Democratic Reps. Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), and Cori Bush (Mo.) rage against capitalism from within the halls of Congress, their husbands bring home the bacon, raking in millions through consulting firms, vineyards, and private security operations. The husbands of the "Squad," who appear to be friends in their own right, have seen their financial fortunes rise in line with their wives' political stardom.
— Tim Mynett (@TimMynett) July 28, 2022
Here's how they did it.
Mr. Ayanna Pressley
Three days before Pressley took office in January 2019, her husband, Conan Harris, left his $92,500-per-year position as public safety adviser to then-Boston mayor Marty Walsh (D.) to launch his own consulting business. A convicted felon who served 10 years in prison for drug trafficking, Harris said he launched his firm to provide him more "flexibility professionally."
The move has paid off for Harris. By 2021, he more than tripled his annual salary, earning $350,000 by consulting for nonprofits and businesses in the Boston area. Harris in 2022 earned up to $1.05 million from his consulting businesses, according to Pressley's financial disclosure.
Experts warned at the time that Harris's transition into consulting could pose ethical problems, as it created the appearance that he was trying to profit off his wife's political success. But Harris has shown he isn't afraid to get his hands dirty to bring in business.
In his final days as a Boston city employee, Harris used his taxpayer-funded email to pitch the mayor's office on letting him stay on as a part-time consultant after he left to launch his firms. Harris sought $50,000 a year to work eight hours a week in the position he was about to leave, an hourly rate nearly triple that of his taxpayer-funded salary. The city didn't take Harris up on his offer, the Boston Globe reported.
Harris's clients include the Boston Office of Police Accountability and Transparency, which in 2022 contracted with his firm to strengthen diversity hiring practices at the Boston Police Department.
One of Harris's firms also raked in $114,000 for consulting in support of a ballot initiative to classify gig workers as independent contractors. Pressley opposed the initiative as her husband cashed checks working in support of the campaign. A Massachusetts court ruled in June 2022 that the proposed ballot measure violated state law, preventing voters from having the final say on the matter.
Mr. Ilhan Omar (the Third)
After divorcing the father of her children and probably marrying her brother, Omar personally saw that her third marriage started on solid financial grounds. Her campaign paid Tim Mynett's firm just under $3 million from 2018 through 2020 for advertising and fundraising consulting services, with payments beginning as the pair embarked on a secret romantic affair.
Though Omar and Mynett in 2019 initially denied having an affair, the pair ultimately divorced from their respective spouses and tied the knot in March 2020. Omar's campaign cut ties with Mynett's firm, E Street Group, after the 2020 elections amid widespread criticism that the "Squad" member was enriching her husband with campaign funds.
Cut off from his largest political client, Mynett switched gears after the 2020 election and entered the private equity business, with a focus on the wine industry. Mynett and his business partner Will Hailer founded Rose Lake Capital, which focuses on "acquiring undervalued assets." Mynett and Hailer each hold a 37 percent stake in eSt Cru, an award-winning California winery founded in 2020 that sells a lineup of political and crypto-related brands such as Blockchain, Redacted, and No Middle Ground.
Mynett and Hailer's entry into private equity has also come with legal challenges. One of Hailer and Mynett's firms, eST Ventures, was sued in February for allegedly defrauding two South Dakota medical marijuana companies out of nearly $1.7 million. Though Mynett owns a stake in eST Ventures and was named in the lawsuit, he wasn't listed as a defendant in the case. Hailer, who was listed as a defendant, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that Mynett had no involvement in the deal.
It appears the case was resolved out of court. The plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit in April, court records show.
Mr. Cori Bush
Bush has enriched her husband, private security guard Cortney Merritts, with campaign funds. Following in Omar's footsteps, Bush's campaign payments to her husband started before the pair legally married in February. Merritts has received over $92,000 in the form of bimonthly $2,500 payments from his wife's campaign since January 2022, Federal Election Commission records show.
Bush's campaign payments to her husband may have violated federal campaign finance laws, a pair of watchdog groups charged in March.
"It appears Rep. Bush's campaign may have made payments for services that were unnecessary or above fair market value because of her personal relationship with the payee," one of the watchdogs, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, said in a complaint to the Federal Election Commission. "If so, these payments would qualify as either impermissible payments to a family member or an impermissible gift."
Bush's campaign attorney, David Mitrani, insisted in a Sept. 1 letter to the second watchdog group, the Committee to Defeat the President, that the arrangement between Bush's campaign and her husband was above board, demanding that the committee retract its allegations.
Mitrani noted that Bush, who has pushed to defund the police, pays Merritts the same as her other security contractor, Nathaniel Davis, a self-proclaimed intergalactic master of psychic self-defense who says he can summon tornadoes with his hate. That, Mitrani wrote, is evidence that the lawmaker isn't unduly enriching her husband with campaign funds.
"Mr. Merritts being paid the same amount that other security contractors of the campaign have been paid is in and of itself a demonstration of fair market value," Bush's attorney wrote.
Honorable Mention: The future Mr. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Unlike the other members of the "Squad," the marital status of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) is unclear. She described her fiancé, Riley Roberts, as her "spouse" in four disclosures in 2023 with the House Ethics Committee, which defines the term strictly as "someone to whom you are legally married." But Ocasio-Cortez's office insisted last week that the far-left lawmaker is "not legally married."
As long as Ocasio-Cortez remains legally unmarried, she can shield her partner's finances from the public by using a loophole in congressional financial disclosure laws that only require lawmakers to disclose financial information about their spouses. Ocasio-Cortez has been tight-lipped about Roberts's finances, leaving the status of his income and potential stock holdings unknown.
Regardless, campaign finance records indicate that Roberts has reaped a financial return from Ocasio-Cortez's political career. In 2017, he earned $6,000 working as a marketing consultant for Brand New Congress, a political action committee that recruited Ocasio-Cortez to launch her inaugural political campaign.
In October 2020, Ocasio-Cortez's campaign reimbursed Roberts over $1,000 for car rental expenses, FEC records show.