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Tipsheet

New Ethics Complaint Shows Schiff's Problems Don't End With TikTok Video, Committee Assignments

Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) just can't stop putting himself out there in the news. As Julio highlighted last week, the embattled congressman took to TikTok to vent about how Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) kept his promise when it came to keeping Schiff from serving on the House Intel Committee. During the video he called on viewers for support. That Schiff would post a video over what could very well be a Chinese spyware app proves why he doesn't belong on the committee, as Julio argued. Evidently not power hungry enough, Schiff not long after announced he was running for U.S. Senate. Just a day after he announced he was running, though, Schiff was hit with an ethics complaint.

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What makes the story even more intriguing is that Google has slapped a warning when searching the topic, because "It looks like the results below are changing quickly," with the first result coming from a Friday afternoon Fox News report by Aaron Kliegman.

As Kliegman mentioned, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) sent a complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) chief counsel that asked them to look into whether Schiff "abused official resources for political purposes" when it comes to his campaign video shared over Twitter. The organization specifically points to how footage of Schiff on the Senate floor from the impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump. 

The footage in question occurs from 13-19 seconds in, and then again at 1:20-1:27 of the two minute long video. Whether through this footage or other content, a significant portion of the video touts Schiff's role in Trump's impeachment. 

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The complaint was penned by Kendra Arnold, who serves as FACT's executive director. In addition to stating the part of the video in question, Arnold mentions:

Federal law states that “appropriations shall be applied only to the objects for which the appropriations were made except as otherwise provided by law.” To enforce this law, the ethics rules prohibit Members from using any official resource for campaign or political purposes. “Official resources” includes anything funded by taxpayers, such as a Member’s official website, social media accounts, and photographs and video from the House or Senate floor. To make it abundantly clear, both the House ethics rules and Senate rules specifically identify Congressional video of floor proceedings as official resources that Members are prohibited from using for political purposes.

Simply put, under the House ethics rules, a Member is prohibited from using eitherHouse or Senate photographs or video because both are official government resources. This includes any photograph or video footage of floor proceedings even it was reposted from a third party source, i.e. another website or news organization. As the Ethics Committee has stated, “Members may not re-use an image of a floor proceeding published by a third-party, if the Member could not use that image in the first instance.”

In the present case, Rep. Schiff is clearly using official government video for campaign purposes in violation of federal law and the House ethics rules. The law is broad—not only is a Member directly prohibited from using the video, but the Member cannot repost from other sources or use video obtained from news outlets. The law is clear and the image above speaks for itself—there are no facts that can excuse this violation.

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The complaint cites the House Ethics Manual as well 31 U.S.C. sec. 1301(a). 

Despite Google's warning, it does not appear that the results are "changing quickly" after all, though. Another result that appeared from the top, Cami Mondeaux's report from the Washington Examiner, was last updated on Saturday morning. 

"Some journalists on social media have speculated that because Schiff used video from news outlets, it may be used as a 'workaround' to bypass House rules. However, members of the nonprofit foundation argued the House ethics rules extend to 'third-party' sources," Mondeaux mentioned as a potential defense and the rebuttal. 

Arnold's complaint also described the rule as "important" because "it not only protects taxpayer-funded resources from abuse, but it also protects the integrity of official proceedings by reducing the incentive for Members to make political speeches during official proceedings."

Not only did Google slap such a warning, but what is allowed above the warning is an advertisement from Schiff, so that supporters can donate money via ActBlue.

Schiff does not appear to have responded to the complaints, and it's also not clear if the OCE will open an investigation. 

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