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Two Texas Republicans probed by outside ethics office for spending campaign cash at social clubs

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The House’s nonpartisan ethics watchdog found “substantial reason to believe” that Texas Republican Reps. Ronny Jackson and Wesley Hunt used campaign money for personal or non-political purposes — on social club dues — according to reports released Monday.

Campaign finance laws prohibit lawmakers from spending campaign funds on dues that provide unlimited access at social or country clubs but allow campaign spending on political events at such clubs.

The outside Office of Congressional Ethics had previously probed $11,928.27 in payments from Jackson’s campaign to the Amarillo Club in his home state between October 2020 and January 2024. It’s not the first time the ethics watchdog investigated his campaign’s monthly payments there.

Following the investigation last Congress, Jackson’s campaign continued making monthly payments to the club but changed the category of spending from “Registration Fees” to other designations like “Membership Fees,” “Food/Beverage,” or “Membership for Exclusive Campaign Purposes,” the office said.

Neither Jackson nor the club cooperated with the investigation, according to the office. A Jackson spokesperson denounced the continued investigation as “baseless” and said it “raises no new information.”

Hunt had been investigated for a similar violation at the Oak Room, a social club in Houston. The office’s report noted that Hunt’s campaign had listed “Membership” at the club in its FEC filings, paying $5,412.50 to the club in dues and fees since April 2022. The OCE also highlighted a $43,626.52 payment to the club in November 2022 for “Facility Rental/Catering” and another $4,132.44 payment shortly after for “Catering.”

Hunt also didn’t cooperate with the probe, according to the report. His attorneys Chris K. Gober, Eric Wang and Anna Mackin denied any wrongdoing in a letter to the House Ethics Committee that was released along with the reports.

“All of the Hunt for Congress payments to the Post Oak Hotel, including for membership in the Post Oak Club, were exclusively for campaign-related purposes and not for any personal purposes,” they wrote. The large payments highlighted by the outside ethics office had covered Hunt’s election night party in 2022, they said.

The office has referred the cases to the House Ethics Committee for the evenly divided panel to review the matter. The Ethics Committee said in statements it would review the referrals and refrain from further comment until those reviews were complete.