The board of the Office of Congressional Ethics announced Thursday that it found allegations that Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) used campaign funds to enrich herself were credible enough to warrant a deeper investigation.
The ethics panel's report said there is "substantial reason to believe that Rep. Tlaib converted campaign funds from Rashida Tlaib for Congress to personal use."
Tlaib received two potentially illegal payments from the campaign after the last general election, according to the report. A salary payment of $2,000 occurred on Nov. 16, 2018, and another payment of $15,500 occurred on Dec. 1.
FEC records, first covered by the Washington Free Beacon, showed that Tlaib paid herself a total of $28,000 in payments from the campaign between May 6 and Nov. 6. The Dec. 1 payment of $15,500 marked a significant increase over what she paid herself during the campaign.
Payment for work during the campaign is legally permitted, but payment for work afterwards would violate the law. Emails indicate that Tlaib was paid for work done after the campaign as the Dec. 1 check was labeled as payment for work between "Nov. 16, 2018 to December 31, 2018." The election occurred on Nov. 6.
The report includes several emails from Tlaib to campaign staff, including an April 4, 2018, email in which she asked for "a one time payment of 5K" due to personal financial struggles.
A later email showed Tlaib reaching out to a larger number of campaign staff and informing them she would not make it through the campaign without a stipend. She requested payments of "$2,000 per two weeks but not exceeding $12,000″ from the campaign.
Tlaib denied wrongdoing, according to the Detroit News. Her lawyers claimed the payments were to catch up on work she had done during the campaign. She claimed that the checks were "the minimum salary payments necessary for me to meet my personal financial obligations."
Tlaib and her staffers refused to cooperate with officials throughout the investigation, according to the report.
"Because Rep. Tlaib refused to interview with the OCE, the OCE could not address these potentially problematic payments with her," the report states. "Likewise, the OCE was unable to address these documents with members of her campaign staff given their refusals to interview with the OCE."
The board unanimously recommended further investigation of the situation.