By Javier Manjarres
Several House Democrats have put themselves in a little bit of a pickle by appearing on a new House Majority PAC commercial aimed at showing how successful the PAC believes they were during the 2012 election cycle.
Apparently, these members of Congress may have violated House Ethics rules by using their position as Congressman/Congresswoman to promote a PAC. In House Majority PAC’s video, members Ami Beri, Cheri Bustos, Patrick Murphy, Raul Ruiz and Sean Patrick Maloney can all be seen promoting the PAC while wearing their congressional lapel pins.
The pins are distributed by the U.S. House of Representatives Sergeant at Arms for identification purposes. We called the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) and they referred us to the House Ethics Committee. We then reached out to the committee’s counsel who did not care to comment on the matter, referring us only to the House of Representatives’ Members’ Handbook.
While we couldn’t find anything in writing stating that these members were in any clear cut and dried ethics rules violations, we did this entry on page 123 of the handbook under “General Prohibition Against Using Official Resources for Campaign or Political Purposes”-
As detailed below, official resources of the House must, as a general rule, be used for the performance of official business of the House, and hence those resources may not be used for campaign or political purposes. The laws and rules referenced in this section reflect ―the basic principle that government funds should not be spent to help incumbents gain reelection.
What are the ―official resources‖ to which this basic rule applies? Certainly the funds appropriated for Member, committee, and other House offices are official resources, as are the goods and services purchased with those funds. Accordingly, among the resources that generally may not be used for campaign or political purposes are congressional office equipment (including the computers, telephones, and fax machines), office supplies (including official stationery and envelopes), and congressional staff time.-(Committee on Ethics)
The argument can be made that congressional lapels are a type of goods and are not paid for by the individual member, they are distributed by the House of Representatives as a whole.
According to the FEC, members are not allowed to use their office or position to campaign, and yet here we have several members of Congress who are clearly campaigning for House Majority PAC but supposedly not violating House ethics in the process. You be the judge.
Watch the video