Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), a prominent supporter of "defund the police" movement, married one of her campaign's security guards earlier this month.
The congresswoman's office disclosed on Sunday that earlier this month Bush married Cortney Merritts, "a security specialist who was paid more than $62,000 by Bush's campaign in 2022," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Bush's office released a statement on Monday that preemptively downplayed any appearance of impropriety regarding the payments that Bush's campaign paid Merritts.
The statement said:
With heartfelt congratulations, I am happy to confirm that Congresswoman Cori Bush married the love of her life, Cortney Merritts, this month. Mr. Merritts, a veteran of the U.S. Army and a security professional, has been Congresswoman Bush’s partner since before her Congressional tenure and is not employed by her Congressional office. Our team has come to know and appreciate Mr. Merritts as a loving and caring Congressional spouse.
According to KSDK-TV, Bush's campaign began directly paying Merritts after their relationship began.
Federal election laws and House ethics guidance prevent members and those campaigning from office from using campaign funds for personal use. Making payments to partners is by no means a new practice, but it certainly invites increased scrutiny of Bush's campaign finances.
In total, campaign records show that Bush has spent more than $600,000 on private security. At one point, that included two St. Louis sheriff's deputies, who were later fired for moonlighting for Bush without authorization.
The eye-popping figure is often contrasted with Bush's anti-police rhetoric. And while even Democrats have warned that supporting "defund the police" is not good for their party, Bush has refused to back down.
"I always tell [fellow Democrats], 'If you all had fixed this before I got here, I wouldn’t have to say these things," she said last year. "Defund the police' is not the problem," she added. "We dangled the carrot in front of people’s faces and said we can get it done and that Democrats deliver, when we haven’t totally delivered."
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