A government watchdog group has filed a formal complaint against some Democrat members of congress who have used official government resources for political campaign purposes, in violation of congressional ethics codes.
The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), a nonprofit watchdog group, lodged a formal complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), alleging that dozens of House members are using official House resources “for political purposes…the most obvious violations being members using official government resources to campaign on their political social media accounts or using official government platforms to campaign.”
“Though to some it may seem like a simple thing on the surface, the members choosing to break this law do it for a reason—it advantages them politically,” the complaint states. Included in the list of alleged transgressors are former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Cori Bush, D-Mo., Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., among others.
“The act of using sanctioned government platforms or resources to spread political messages furthers their cause by both giving the member a wider and less partisan audience than their campaign platforms have, and also by lending their message an ‘official’ credibility that it would not otherwise have,” it reads.
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FACT argues that the lawmakers are in violation of federal law, which sates that “appropriations shall be applied only to the objects for which the appropriations were made except as otherwise provided by law.”
House ethics rules aim to enforce this law by also prohibiting members from using any official resource for campaign or political purposes. An “official resource” is anything funded by taxpayers. Examples include all government buildings and House offices, a member’s official website and social media accounts, and photographs and video from the House floor or committee proceedings, the complaint outlines.
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Specifically, the complaint cites the Committee on Ethics memo from July 2018 which states that a member’s campaign social media account “may not share, like, retweet, etc., a post from an official social media account.”
“Making this situation worse,” the complaint says, “is the nature of the transgression and the ease of proving it— there are no reams of documents to fine-comb through here. Many of these violations are literally published by the Member on a public-facing platform, and evidence of the violation can be found and proven merely by going to Twitter.com.”
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FACT notes that OCE has previously identified “this exact same behavior as ethics violations in past years, but it has simply failed to enforce” them.
The OCE was created in 2008 after the House Ethics Committee “failed to act on legal and ethical violations committed by members, which plainly demonstrated the Ethics Committee’s consistent reluctance to impose penalties against their fellow members and the inadequacy of the U.S. House to self-police,” the complaint highlights.
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“The OCE was designed to act on the public’s behalf and be an independent evaluator to expose ethics violations—not to fall in line with the Ethics Committee and follow its example of inaction. While the ultimate punishment for violations continues to lie with the House Ethics Committee, the OCE’s role is to identify ethical transgressions and bring the facts and laws to the attention of the public, as well as to the Ethics Committee,” it reads.