Roll Call: Bishop uses $25,000 in campaign funds to pay law firm

As a Georgia Bureau of Investigation probe continues, Roll Call newspaper is reporting that Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., paid $25,000 in legal fees last month out of his campaign account.

The money was paid to the Atlanta branch office of Greenberg Traurig, according to campaign finance reports reviewed by Roll Call.

The one-time disbursement is the only payment that Bishop’s campaign has made for legal services since at least 2001, the earliest year for which searchable electronic reports are available, according to Roll Call.

Bishop's Washington office declined comment.

"The Roll Call article referred to a matter that is under investigation in the state of Georgia," said spokesperson Jennie Gibson. "As such, Congressman Bishop does not believe that it would be appropriate to comment on it at this time."

Bishop, in his ninth term representing the Southwest Georgia district that include a large portion of South Columbus, came under fire two months ago. A city of Columbus payroll audit of the Muscogee Marshal’s Office found that Bishop’s stepdaughter, Aayesha Owens Reese, and her husband, Stephen M. Reese, live east of Atlanta in Lithonia, Ga., both were paid for work in the Junior Marshal’s Program. It’s a middle school mentoring initiative that was funded in large part by federal grants secured by Bishop.

The GBI probe called for about two months ago is continuing, agent Rodney Wall with the Columbus office said late Tuesday afternoon.

“It is still active at this time,” Wall said. “There is no time table. We are waiting on other people. It’s not us.”

The Reeses live about 120 miles from Columbus. She works full time for the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office.

Stephen Reese worked for the Junior Marshal’s Program as an assistant from November 2007 until July 2008 and was paid $7,275 before taxes during a seven-month period. The money paid to him was direct-deposited into a Columbus Bank and Trust Co. account in the name of Vivian Creighton Bishop, his mother-in-law, Bishop’s wife and the elected Municipal Court Clerk.

Aayesha Reese was paid a gross salary of $7,575 between Oct. 3, 2007, and Feb. 20, 2008. She quit shortly after the congressman discovered she was on the payroll.