The 33-page report detailed possible misuse of both campaign account funds and the allowance provided to Bishop as a member of Congress.
The OCE said it reviewed billing statements and found the campaign committee paid more than $30,000 to the Stonebridge Golf and Country Club in Albany, Ga., from January 2009 to September 2019 for monthly membership dues, range fees, locker fees and minimum food and beverage.
The report said Bishop acknowledged it was “a mistake” for the campaign committee to pay the costs of monthly membership dues and associated fees.
In addition to golf expenses, the OCE said Bishop may have misspent more than $16,000 from his congressional allowance on annual holiday parties four years in a row, from 2015 to 2018.
The report said the event was described as either the “Congressman Bishop Christmas Party” or “Holiday Social” and “several banquet event order forms note that a dance floor was requested and a saxophonist attended with DJ equipment.”
The report said that when pressed on the events, Bishop insisted they were “constituent meetings.”
“Rep. Bishop’s denials about the nature of these events was further undercut by his acknowledgment that both his staff and his wife’s staff attended with their significant others,” the report said.
In recommending a full-scale investigation, the OCE said it found “substantial reason to believe that Rep. Bishop converted campaign funds from Sanford Bishop for Congress to personal use or that Rep. Bishop’s campaign committee expended funds that were not attributable to bona fide campaign or political purposes.”
Two attorneys for the congressman, Brian G. Svoboda and Aria C. Branch of the law firm Perkins Coie, said in response to the allegations that Bishop has taken steps to correct the problems in record keeping, reporting and compliance identified in the report.
Specifically, the two attorneys said Bishop had written personal checks to the campaign as reimbursements for the dues payments and other expenses, hired a new treasurer for the campaign, enlisted an outside compliance firm to prepare and file campaign reports with the Federal Election Commission, and stopped automated campaign payments for monthly bills at golf and country clubs.
Bishop also wrote a check to the U.S. Treasury for more than $16,000 for the holiday events, they said.
“Representative Bishop is committed to bring his campaign into full compliance and to avoid mistakes in the future. We are prepared to work with him toward that end, and to cooperate with the committee toward a proper resolution of the allegations transmitted by OCE,” the attorneys wrote.
The response from the lawyers was included in the report.