Rep. Cori Bush’s outpouring of gifts from constituents, including jewelry and dresses, raises “red flags” with ethics rules, a watchdog told Fox News.
In a recent profile in Harpers Bazaar magazine, titled the “Might of Cori Bush,” Bush’s father said the Missouri Democrat regularly receives gifts from grateful constituents so she can “look her best” in Washington.
“Throughout the general election, she posted videos of herself in the clothes she proudly wore: formfitting dresses, leggings, and tall boots,” reporter Kaitlyn Greenidge wrote in the profile. “Her father tells me that people in the neighborhood now regularly drop off dresses, jewelry and shoes for her to wear in Washington. ‘They say, “We want her to look her best. She’s representing us.”‘”
But a watchdog told Fox News that this scenario is problematic since ethics rules strictly prohibit House members from taking gifts valued at more than $50.
“The gift rule is very strict and it exists to prevent outright corruption, but also to prevent buying access or implicit bias that could come even from small gifts,” Foundation for Civic Trust President Kendra Arnold told Fox News.
“House members can’t accept anything worth $50 or above unless one of the specific exceptions in the ethics rules allows for it,” Arnold said. “When a member receives benefits or items free of charge based upon their position it raises red flags.”
“If a member receives something but promptly returns it without using it, that does not constitute a gift and is the proper way to handle an unsolicited gift,” Arnold concluded.
Bush’s office told Fox News that she appreciates the generous support from residents in her district and consults with the ethics committee.
“The congresswoman has received and been immensely grateful for an outpouring of support from her St. Louis community,” Julia Albertson, Bush’s communications director, said.
“Our office also works very closely with the House Committee on Ethics on all gift-related matters,” Albertson added. “She has never solicited or accepted any gifts that do not strictly comply with House ethics guidelines.”
The House Committee on Ethics said it could not comment when asked if it could verify whether a member was working with the committee on such matters.
Another “Squad” member, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, recently came under fire following her appearance at the Met Gala. The firebrand New York Democrat donned a dress that said “Tax the Rich” at the event where tickets started at $35,000 and tables at $200,000.
Two conservative watchdog groups filed ethics complaints against Ocasio-Cortez following the event.
One of the complaints, filed by the National Legal and Policy Center to the Office of Congressional Ethics, alleged that she had improperly accepted tickets from a table sponsor for herself and her boyfriend, the New York Post reported.