The House Ethics Committee has its eye on Reps. John Lewis (D-GA) and Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) after fielding concerns from the watchdog the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust. The watchdog group filed a complaint in June 2016 against Lujan, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, for his participation in a 25-hour sit-in demanding votes on gun control. He and his colleagues were guilty of using the House resources for political purposes, FACT charged. For instance, during the protest, Lujan’s campaign sent out emails to supporters asking for donations.
“There can be no doubt that the sit-in and voting on a bill are actions taken in the Members’ official capacity,” FACT explained in its complaint. “The emails directly tie the sit-in and holding a vote on a bill to a solicitation for a contribution, and some include official House Television images.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan also noticed the Democrats’ untoward behavior at the time, shaming them for trying to fundraise off of a political stunt.
Then, this past January, FACT filed a complaint against another Democratic representative, John Lewis. Lewis was mentioned in their complaint about the gun control protest, but FACT had a separate concern about the Georgia representative for reportedly allowing his Chief of Staff Michael Collins to act as both his campaign treasurer and chief of staff.
In their letter to the ethics committee, FACT explained that Lewis was violating the rules that prohibit this kind of employment “outside salary limitations.”
Matthew Whitaker, FACT’s executive director, is pleased that the committee has referred both complaints.
“We are pleased that the Office of Congressional Ethics has referred two of FACT’s complaints to the House Ethics Committee," Whitaker said in a statement Tuesday. "Members of Congress are sent to Washington to not only enact laws, but more importantly, follow them. With respect to Congressman John Lewis’ (D-Georgia) Chief of Staff Michael Collins and Congressman Ben Ray Lujan (D-New Mexico), these were not inadvertent mistakes, but egregious violations of crystal clear house rules. For Mr. Collins, this was not his first ethical offense.
“Congressional ethics rules exist to ensure that Members of Congress are not abusing their power and influence to their own personal benefit, including financial gain, as well as misusing taxpayer property and resources. We hope that the House Ethics Committee conducts a very thorough investigation into these cases.”