The probe was prompted by a complaint last March from the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center, which accused Palazzo of using his campaign contributions as a “personal slush fund” through which he paid “himself and his spouse nearly $200,000,” including $60,000 in rent to his own farm.
In its report, the OCE said that it had found “limited evidence of campaign use of the property, especially to justify $60,000.00 in rent and thousands of dollars of additional charges to maintain the home and improve its marketability.”
The ethics office also said there was evidence that Palazzo “may have asked official staffers to perform campaign work and personal errands during the congressional workday.”
“And finally,” the report states, “the OCE found evidence that Rep. Palazzo may have used his official position and congressional resources to contact the Assistant Secretary of the Navy in order to assist his brother’s efforts to reenlist in the military.” It notes that, according to a former Palazzo staffer, Kyle Palazzo “was separated from the Navy for affecting a fraudulent enlistment.”
The report was sent in August to the House Committee on Ethics, which said in a statement Monday that it continues to review the matter.
Palazzo’s office did not respond to a request for comment Monday night.
In a letter to the House Committee on Ethics in October, Palazzo’s attorney, Gregg Harper, responded to the OCE’s report by urging lawmakers to dismiss the allegations and “take no further actions.”
“The OCE tries to paint a narrative of financial desperation which is patently false, as evidenced by the fact that [Palazzo] did not accept rent payments until he was three and a half months into the lease,” Harper said in the letter, which was made public Monday. “Any expenses paid by the campaign were authorized under the terms of the lease and were reasonable and necessary.”
Harper also maintained that Palazzo and his office “did not do anything ‘special’ for his brother.”
“To stay in office, a good Member treats every constituent like a VIP and that’s what Rep. Palazzo and his office consistently do,” Harper said.
In its report, the OCE recommended that the House Committee on Ethics subpoena Palazzo and more than a dozen other individuals and entities that declined to provide requested information to the panel during its probe.