Something Blue: Defund the Police Champion Cori Bush Weds Private Security Guard in Secret Ceremony

Bush’s romantic and financial ties with bodyguard raise ethical questions

February 27, 2023

Squad member Rep. Cori Bush (D., Mo.) wants to defund the police, but that didn’t stop her from secretly marrying her private security guard in February.

Bush’s office confirmed in a statement Monday that she married "the love of her life," Cortney Merritts, in a covert wedding ceremony in February. Bush said Merritts is a military veteran and has been her romantic partner since before she joined Congress in 2021. Merritts has reaped a bountiful financial return on his relationship with Bush, whose campaign paid the private security guard over $62,000 since January 2022, according to Federal Election Commission records. Bush began paying her lover less than two weeks before her unoccupied car was hit by gunfire in St. Louis in late January 2022.

Federal campaign watchdogs will likely scrutinize Bush’s romantic and financial ties with Merritts. Bush is one of the most prominent voices in Congress working to "defund the police," but her campaign has also shelled out $627,000 in private security services since 2019, making her one of the most prolific spenders on private security services in the lower chamber. One of Bush’s security providers is a right-wing firm that promotes the Second Amendment, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

"Cori Bush's payments of $62,360 for security services to her lover and now husband from her campaign funds raises the question of whether he is being paid for providing legitimate security services or simply for escorting her to events as her partner," said Paul Kamenar, counsel to the National Legal and Policy Center.

Bush once told her constituents to "suck it up" as she justified spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on private security services while she simultaneously worked in Congress to take police off the streets. "Defunding the police has to happen. We need to defund the police and put that money into social safety nets, because we're trying to save lives," Bush said.

Merritts has become somewhat of a fixture in Bush’s congressional office, according to the Missouri Democrat’s chief of staff, Abbas Alaweih. Stressing that the private security guard is not employed by Bush’s taxpayer-funded office, Alaweih said "our team has come to know and appreciate Mr. Merritts as a loving and caring Congressional spouse."

Bush has taken steps in the past to conceal the identity of her lover. She posted a photo of her and "my Mr. Good" at the White House Congressional Holiday Ball on social media on Dec. 6, 2022, concealing Merritts’s face with a brown heart. Bush disclosed her secret wedding ceremony only after a local news outlet reported Sunday evening that she had wed her bodyguard.


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Merritts has used his access to Bush’s office to engage in some political activism of his own. Most recently, he staked out House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R., Calif.) office and offered to "move his shit out of the Speaker’s office," according to a video he posted on Twitter on Jan. 3.

Before protecting his lover for $5,000 a month, Merritts founded and operated a moving company in St. Louis in 2018 called Vetted Movers and Couriers.

Bush isn’t the only member of the Squad to face allegations of self-dealing with a spouse. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) paid nearly $3 million in campaign funds to a consulting firm run by her husband from 2018 through 2020, much of which was distributed before she disclosed she was in a romantic relationship with the consultant.

Omar stopped payments to her husband’s firm in late 2020 amid allegations that she was paying in excess of fair market value for his services in violation of federal campaign finance laws. Kamenar advised Bush to follow in Omar’s footsteps and take Merritts off her campaign payroll.

"At a minimum, the payments raise ethical issues and Cori Bush should stop the practice and follow the lead of Ilhan Omar who stopped paying consulting fees to her boyfriend after they were married in response to a House ethics complaint we filed against her," Kamenar told the Free Beacon.

Bush and Merritt did not return requests for comment.