Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke paid roughly $110,000 in campaign funds to a web development company while either he or his wife owned it, public records show.
Beto for Texas paid Stanton Street Technology Group $58,544 during the 2011-12 election cycle, $39,060 during the 2013-14 cycle, $9,290 in the 2015-16 cycle and $32,778 during the 2017-18 cycle, according to Federal Election Commission records reviewed by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Either O’Rourke or his wife, Amy Sanders O’Rourke, owned Stanton Street — a small web development firm that O’Rourke founded in 1998 — during the vast majority of those payments. Such payments are legal, so long as the campaign is charged for the actual cost of the services, but ethics watchdogs have criticized the practice as a form of self-dealing.
O’Rourke’s wife took over Stanton Street as the Texas Democrat entered Congress in January 2013. She controlled it until early 2017.
Amy O’Rourke sold her stake in the company on March 31, 2017, according to her husband’s 2017 year-end financial disclosure report. He listed the sale value in the $100,001 to $1 million range.
Stanton Street publicly announced the sale more than two months after the fact in a June 2017 blog post that listed CEO Brian Wancho as Amy O’Rourke’s buyer.
“Amy will continue to be involved with the company during the transition,” read the blog post. “She plans to spend more time on local initiatives in addition to joining her husband, Senate Candidate and current U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke, on the campaign trail.”
He doubled as both candidate and treasurer during his first congressional campaign in 2011 and 2012, according to FEC records.
Beto for Texas paid the candidate’s own business for services including “consulting” and “social media” during that time, FEC records show.
Stanton Street declined to make Wancho available for an interview, but he agreed to answer questions via email.
O’Rourke’s presidential campaign — his first campaign since Amy O’Rourke sold the company — is not using Stanton Street, according to Wancho. Wancho said he thought there wasn’t anything unethical about a candidate directing campaign funds to a business they own.
“What would be out of bounds is if the candidate abused the process and over-paid for goods and services just to enrich themself (sic) or their family. I expect the combination of campaign expenditure reporting and investigative journalism to work together to root out the situations where the candidate is abusing the system,” he said.
O’Rourke’s presidential campaign acknowledged TheDCNF’s request for comment but declined to respond by deadline.
The only other federal candidate to report payments to Stanton Street was Democratic Rep. Veronica Escobar in 2018 as she ran to replace O’Rourke in Texas’s 16th Congressional District, FEC records show.
O’Rourke’s political and business decisions have faced ethical questions in the past.
Beto O’Rourke faced backlash from local El Paso residents after supporting a development project that converted housing for low-income residents into a retail destination — an endeavor his wealthy father-in-law proposed.
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