By Chad Pergram, ,
Published September 26, 2017
The House Ethics Committee said Tuesday it had cleared the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee of wrongdoing tied to last year’s House floor sit-in over firearms.
The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) had argued New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, who leads the campaign arm dedicated to getting Democrats elected to the House, broke House rules by asking people to donate money during the 26-hour sit-in.
But the Ethics Committee determined that Lujan didn’t use any government resources for campaign purposes or use the House floor as a campaign forum.
However, the Ethics Committee did find that a Lujan political operative used an image of the sit-in from the House floor for a campaign ad. The Ethics Committee declared the instance was an “inadvertent, technical violation” of House rules.
The House bars using official resources on the floor for campaign purposes.
“Members are ultimately responsible for actions taken in their name that they delegate to third parties,” the Ethics Committee said. “Thus, Members should take reasonable steps to ensure that their campaign committees or consultants comply with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations.”
In June of last year, Democrats shut down the House's legislative work by staging a sit-in on the House floor and refusing to leave until they secured a vote on gun control measures before lawmakers' weeklong break.
More than 200 Democrats led by Georgia Rep. John Lewis demanded a vote on measures to expand background checks and block gun purchases by some suspected terrorists in the aftermath of the massacre in Orlando, Florida that killed 49 people in a gay nightclub.
FACT made the original complaint about Lujan to the outside, quasi-official “Office of Congressional Ethics,” or OCE. The OCE ultimately passed the complaint along to the formal Ethics Committee.
One of the issues in the complaint was whether Lujan sent out emails advocating campaign action on guns from the House floor. But the Ethics Committee could not determine if he was actually on the floor when the emails were sent.
Lujan’s office had called the complaint against the congressman “politically motivated.”
On Tuesday, the House Ethics Committee also said it dropped an ethics inquiry filed against Texas Republican Rep. Roger Williams.
The Ethics panel probed whether Williams, a car dealer, had a conflict of interest in offering an amendment two years ago to help the car dealer industry.
The Ethics Committee ruled the amendment did not present “an inference of improper conduct.” It said that Williams properly identified himself as an auto dealer when speaking about the amendment on the House floor.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.