Mississippi congressman accused of violating ethics rules — using funds to fix house, misused position to help brother

Published 10:45 am Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Mississippi Rep. Steven Palazzo is accused of using campaign funds for personal expenses, using congressional resources for his personal benefit and using his official position to obtain special assistance for his brother Kyle Palazzo.

The Office of Congressional Ethics concluded in a 47-page report made public on Monday that there is “substantial” evidence that Palazzo may have violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law.

The report was passed by a unanimous vote of 6-0 and referred the findings of the report to a committee for further review.

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The report said they found evidence that Palazzo used campaign funds to maintain his personal riverfront property and to improve the marketability and condition of that property in anticipation of sale. Additionally, former congressional staff members told the OCE, and documents reviewed by the OCE suggested, that Palazzo may have asked official staffers to perform campaign work and personal errands during the congressional workday. Finally, 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.

The report also notes that Palazzo did not cooperate with the OCE review, nor did 13 other individuals, including the Palazzo for Congress campaign and Palazzo’s brother Kyle. The OCE sought to interview Palazzo, the treasurer of his campaign committee and leadership PAC, and five current and former staffers about these matters. They all declined the OCE’s invitations to interview, states the report.

In response, Palazzo issued the following statement on Tuesday morning saying:

“Congressman Palazzo welcomes the opportunity to work through this process with the House Committee on Ethics and will fully cooperate with the Committee to show that he has complied with all relevant rules and standards.

This matter is the direct result of false allegations made by a primary opponent and the Campaign Legal Center claiming that the Congressman’s campaign paid him for rent of a farm in Perkinston, Mississippi. Simple investigation shows that the payments were actually made for a property in D’Iberville, Mississippi owned by the Congressman, appropriately and legally used for a campaign office and rented at fair market value.

Congressman Palazzo has retained the services of former Congressman Gregg Harper to represent him before the Committee. Harper served five terms in Congress and served on the House Committee on Ethics for two of those terms as well as one term as the Chairman of the Committee on House Administration.

Congressman Palazzo will continue to serve his constituents with honor and integrity, and he looks forward to having this matter concluded as soon as possible.”