Just one day before Congress spent the entire day wasting our money reading their edited Constitution there was a blip in the swearing in process. Two newly elected members of the GOP decided raising funds at a reception they were throwing in the basement of the U.S. Capitol building was more important than their swearing in. Yet when it came time to vote on issues the two were right there casting their votes, yet not officially it appears.
Republican members, Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick and Pete Sessions, missed their swearing in on Wednesday as they attended a fundraiser in Fitzpatrick’s honor at the U.S. Capitol. These two not-quite-yet Congressmen then voted on legislation and introduced bills, adding a Dadaist element to the proceedings. Although astonishingly surreal, there’s a serious House Rules-related concern: lawmakers are barred from using official resources for campaign or fundraising activities.
“House rooms and offices are not to be used for events that are campaign or political in nature, such as a meeting on campaign strategy, or a reception for campaign contributors,” according to the House Ethics Manual.
The Ethics Manual identifies an exception — “when a Member is sworn in, the Member may hold a ‘swearing-in’ reception in a House office building that is paid for with campaign funds” — but the event was a fundraiser, not merely a simple “swearing-in” ceremony.
But of course, no worries we just misunderstood what they were really doing during their reception.
A spokesman for Fitzpatrick told the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim that the event was not a fundraiser and that anyone could attend. The information available shows that the invite was a solicitation for campaign funds and was very different from other lawmaker invites for celebrations held in official House offices and buildings.
The invite says that it is an invitation to “Mike’s Swearing In Celebration” and asks for at least $30 per person. The money appears to be for the bus trip to DC and entry to the celebration. The money, of course, goes to Rep. Fitzpatrick’s campaign account, is accompanied by a FEC disclaimer, and is solicited in whatever amount the donor chooses to give–contributors could select amounts ranging from $30 to $120 or more.
The problem of holding events in the U.S. Capitol (i.e., the Capitol Visitors Center) for political or campaign activities is explained in the House Ethics Manual: they “are supported with official funds and hence are considered official resources.”
While Fitzpatrick appears to have violated House ethics rules, Sessions deserves special attention for reserving the room for Fitzpatrick. This may not violate any rules, but as a member of the Rules Committee, he should know better! Of course, he shouldn’t have voted before he was sworn in, either.
The Office of Congressional Ethics and the House Ethics Committee should determine whether or not this type of activity is in violation of the House Ethics rules. From this end, it appears as though this fundraiser was not in meeting with the rules as laid out in the manual.
Will we see any investigation? Will we see any punishment? Highly unlikely since the GOP now rules the house and changed all the rules to their benefit on day one. Americans be damned.