Congressional Ethics Office says there is 'probable cause' Nehls misused campaign funds

The OCE's investigation centered on questionable "rent payments," that were made by his campaign to a company that was registered to Nehls named Liberty 1776 LLC.

Published: May 10, 2024 8:08pm

The nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) voted to continue an investigation into Texas GOP Rep. Troy Nehls, after its initial report that was released Friday, found there was "probable cause" that the Texan used campaign funds on personal expenses.

The office announced its investigation last July, which was followed by a separate investigation from the House Ethics Committee in March. The House Ethics investigation is still ongoing.

The OCE claimed Nehls did not cooperate with their investigation, but a lawyer for Nehls did respond to the accusations, according to the Hill. The congressman has denied any wrongdoing.

“Rep. Nehls’s campaign committee, Nehls for Congress, reported campaign disbursements that may not be legitimate and verifiable campaign expenditures attributable to bona fide campaign or political purposes,” the report reads. “The Board recommends that the Committee further review the above allegation concerning Rep. Nehls because there is probable cause to believe that Rep. Nehls may have converted campaign committee funds to personal use."

The OCE's investigation centered on questionable "rent payments," that were made by his campaign to a company that was registered to Nehls named Liberty 1776 LLC. The rent payments amounted to over $25,000 between 2019 and 2022, and were allegedly for renting office space at a place called Freedom Hall.

None of the payments however, specifically stated that they were for Freedom Hall.

“The sporadic nature of the payments, as well as the lack of publicly available information linking Liberty 1776 to the campaign headquarters, raises concerns regarding the personal use of campaign funds,” the report said.

Nehls's attorney Jerad Najvar defended the payments in a four-page response to the findings in January. Najvar said his client and other candidates opened Liberty 1776 so they could lease office space at Freedom Hall, which was owned by EBP Property Holdings Ltd.

"This was an oral contract by which Liberty 1776 agreed to both pay rent periodically and to make certain improvements to the property and maintain it during the lease as necessary," Najvar said. "The property was referred to by Respondent and the other candidates using it as Freedom Hall. Respondent’s campaign used it as office space and for events.

"The various rent payments by Nehls for Congress to Liberty 1776 from 2019 through 2022 were, therefore, legitimate rent payments for campaign office use," he continued. "The other local campaigns were also making payments to Liberty 1776 for rent, improvements, and maintenance."

The 14-page OCE report also alleged that Nehls made rent payments to two other entities, amounting to $5,000 to Patriot Media LLC and $2,652.62 to Pogie USA LLC. There was no ownership connection found between Nehls and the other LLCs.

“However, the multiple rent payments to different entities raise concerns about the legitimacy and purpose of these payments,” the report noted.

Najvar dismissed these criticisms as well, stating that Pogie USA was the landlord for Nehls’s campaign office in Brazoria County, and Patriot Media was a consulting firm that the campaign hired, that worked out of Freedom Hall. 

"After Respondent closed Liberty 1776 in May 2022, some rent was paid to the landlord by Patriot Media with funds provided by Nehls for Congress," Najvar wrote. "This is why the campaign reported that some payments to Patriot Media LLC were for rent."

The OCE has recommended that the House committee issues subpoenas to Nehls and eight people connected to him. But Nehls said he is complying with the House investigation into his campaign finance, per the Washington Examiner.

Misty Severi is an evening news reporter for Just the News. You can follow her on X for more coverage.

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