For U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, the campaign trail has led to the altar.
Bush’s office reported Sunday that “this month,” the St. Louis Democrat married Cortney Merritts — a security specialist who was paid more than $62,000 by Bush’s campaign in 2022.
Records at the St. Louis marriage license department show that Merritts and Bush applied for their license on Feb. 11.
A press statement from Bush chief of staff Abbas Alawieh noted that Bush and Merritts have been partners “since before her Congressional tenure and is not employed by her Congressional office.”
The statement described Merritts as a U.S. Army veteran and a security professional. His social media profile says he is an East St. Louis native.
He also has appeared at several social events, as posts on social media indicate:
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I'm rarely speechless on here. But last night.... Being at the White House for the Holiday Ball and seeing history everywhere you turned. Just an amazing experience. pic.twitter.com/1SqIqwnK8w— Cortney Merritts (@CortneyMerritt4) December 6, 2022
On Dec. 6, he posted a photo of himself in front of the portrait of President Barack Obama at a holiday celebration at the White House.
“I’m rarely speechless on here. But last night.... Being at the White House for the Holiday Ball and seeing history everywhere you turned. Just an amazing experience,” Merritts said.
It appears Merritts accompanied Bush 10 months ago on a trip to New York for recording of a “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” episode that aired April 13. The day before the show aired, he posted:
Down in the green room at the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. New York has been a exactly how I've expected it to be so far. Lol. #LSSC pic.twitter.com/KHA6JRmTiN— Cortney Merritts (@CortneyMerritt4) April 12, 2022
“Down in the green room at the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. New York has been exactly how I’ve expected it to be so far. Lol,” the post said.
According to Federal Election Commission filings, the “Cori Bush For Congress” campaign paid Merritts a total of $62,359 in 2022.
Most of the payments, 24 of them, were periodic payments of $2,500. In summer 2022, there also was $2,359 paid in four installments for expense reimbursements.
Any continued employment of Merritts by the campaign appears to be allowed by FEC rules, which state that “campaign funds may be used to make salary payments to members of the candidate’s family,” provided that the member provides a “bona fide service” and the payments “reflect the fair market value.”
Bush’s congressional office referred questions about Merritts’ continued employment to Bush’s campaign office. An email sent to the campaign office awaits a reply.
Merritts is not an employee of Peace Security, an eight-year-old firm in the Benton Park neighborhood that has received several hundred thousand dollars from Bush’s campaign.
Christopher Hill, head of Peace Security, said on Monday that Merritts is not an employee and has no financial relationship to his company.
In 18 months, from July 2021 through December 2022, Bush’s campaign has paid $305,433 to Peace Security for security services, FEC records show.
In her two years in Congress, Bush has drawn criticism for the amount of money she spends on private security while also being one of the most vocal advocates for a movement to defund the police.
Since January 2021, when Bush took office to begin her first term, her campaign has paid a total of $557,676 for security services.
A February 2022 article in Axios showed Bush as having spent more than any other U.S. House member for the 2021 year, about $233,000 dollars, in security spending.
Updated at 1:20 p.m.