ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - In June, the House Ethics Committee extended a review into District 2 Congressman Sanford Bishop’s disbursement reports, seeming to center around campaign money spent on country club dues.
The Office of Congressional Ethics sent a report of Bishop’s campaign spending to the House Ethics Committee on Feb. 10. The House Ethics Committee then announced its extension of the review June 16, which made the investigation public for the first time.
The 14-term representative for all or part of 29 Southwest Georgia counties said he is cooperating with their investigation fully.
“I’m open and transparent with this committee,” Bishop said. “And that includes conducting a very thorough review of all my campaign finance reports. With a view toward identifying any corrective steps that need to be taken to resolve it.”
Federal Election Commission regulations prohibit congressional candidates from spending campaign money to pay for dues to country clubs, unless it’s part of a specific campaign event. But there are published reports the investigation centers around membership dues paid to the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, Virginia and the Green Island Country Club in Columbus.
Bishop’s opponent in November’s election, Republican Nominee Don Cole, said his only information is that Bishop has issued no denials.
“I just noticed that this is kind of typical of the elitist Democrat socialist,” Cole said. “They talk about being for the little guy and wanting to help out the little guy. But look at how they are spending the money. Look at what Sanford is doing there.”
In 2010, Bishop co-sponsored a bill that would have cut back on the public releases of the Office of Congressional Ethics, until their reports are completed. That bill was never put up to a vote.
Bishop said he seriously holds his office as a public trust.
“I think that we need strong ethics laws,” Bishop said. “And I think that all of us have the opportunity, and the responsibility to comply with them. And I intend to be fully compliant and I intend to be cooperative with the committee.”
Said Cole: “I think he’s just grown comfortable being up there in Washington. And he’s forgotten and taken, and just taken for granted a lot of the voters down here in the Second District.”
Since extending its review, the Ethics Committee has 45 days to continue their investigation. The Office of Congressional Ethics said they send reports to the House Ethics Committee if it finds “substantial reason to believe a violation occurred.”
The ethics committee said although their investigation has been extended, it does not indicate any violation has occurred.