House ethics panel probing Reps. Ronny Jackson and Wesley Hunt over use of campaign money on private club dues

From left, Reps. Monica De La Cruz, R-Texas, Wesley Hunt, R-Texas, Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, and Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, display Texas temporary tattoos to mark Texas Independence Day, which in on March 2nd, on the house steps of the U.S. Capitol after the last votes of the week on Wednesday, March 1, 2023.

Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

The House Ethics Committee on Monday said it will review a congressional watchdog report finding “substantial reason” to believe U.S. Reps. Ronny Jackson and Wesley Hunt used thousands of dollars of campaign funds for their own personal use.

Campaign committees for the two Republican congressmen, both of whom represent districts in Texas, made payments to private social clubs over multiple years, according to separate reports from the independent Office of Congressional Ethics.

Jackson’s committee, Texans for Ronny Jackson, spent nearly $12,000 on dues, fees, meals and other expenses related to the Amarillo Club, a dining club, gym and meeting room in Amarillo, Texas, between 2020 and 2024, the office found.

Hunt’s campaign committee paid more than $5,400 on dues and fees to the Oak Room, a private club located in Houston’s Post Oak Hotel, in 2022 and 2023, according to the OCE.

In both reports, the office said it found “substantial reason to believe” that each congressman “converted campaign funds” from their campaign committees “to personal use,” or or that their committees “expended funds that were not attributable to bona fide campaign or political purposes.”

The bipartisan House Ethics Committee in press releases Monday afternoon said it received referrals from the OCE about Jackson and Hunt in late March. The panel, led by Chairman Michael Guest, R-Miss., and ranking member Susan Wild, D-Pa., jointly decided on May 9 to review the matter.

The press release for Hunt included a lengthy response from the congressman’s attorneys, who denied that any campaign money went toward personal use.

“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,” the congressman’s counsel wrote in the 12-page response to the OCE report.

Hunt “does not maintain a campaign office,” and he decided the Oak Room membership fees “would be a more prudent use of campaign funds” than renting a Houston campaign office, the lawyers wrote.

A spokesman for Hunt’s office told CNBC, “We believe we have cooperated fully with the House Ethics Committee and we expect this will be dismissed soon.”

Jackson’s office did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment. The ethics committee’s press release tied to Jackson did not include any response from his representatives.

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The OCE’s reports noted that if either congressman’s campaign committee spent funds that were “not attributable to bona fide campaign or political purposes,” then that congressman “may have violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law.”

The reports said that neither Jackson nor Hunt cooperated with their investigations, though Hunt “initially” produced “some limited information.” The OCE recommended that the House Ethics Committee issue subpoenas to both congressmen.

Jackson, who prior to joining Congress in 2020 served as White House physician under then-Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, was previously accused by the OCE of misusing campaign donations at the Amarillo Club.

In the two-plus years since the House Ethics Committee unveiled those allegations, Jackson’s campaign has “continued to make consistent payments to the Amarillo Club,” according to the report revealed Monday.

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