An ethics watchdog group on Friday asked the Office of Congressional Ethics investigate Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., for using footage from the Senate floor in an ad announcing his run for the Senate.
The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) sent a complaint to the OCE’s chief counsel that asked for an immediate probe into whether Schiff “abused official resources for political purposes” by using the video.
Schiff announced Thursday that he’s running for the Senate in 2024, via a video that was shared on his Twitter account. That video includes footage of Schiff speaking on the Senate floor during impeachment proceedings against former President Donald Trump.
“This is a clear violation of House ethics rules and federal law,” said Kendra Arnold, executive director of FACT. “Rep. Schiff has been in Congress for over two decades and undoubtedly knows that official government resources cannot be used for political purposes. Rep. Schiff must immediately take down the video and cease distribution of the footage, and the Office of Congressional Ethics should move swiftly to investigate and sanction Rep. Schiff for this breach.”
House members are prohibited from using House and Senate floor video for campaign purposes, according to FACT.
“Federal law states that ‘appropriations shall be applied only to the objects for which the appropriations were made except as otherwise provided by law,'” the complaint said. “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,” the complaint added, “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.”
Some journalists have speculated on social media that Schiff may have found a legal workaround by using third-party news footage of the Senate floor – in this case, footage from NBC.
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However, FACT argues House ethics rules clearly prohibit members from using either House or Senate video or photographs, because both are official government resources. This apparently includes footage or a photo of floor proceedings, even it was reposted from a third-party source, such as a news organization.
“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,” the House Ethics Committee stated in a 2017 report.
The complaint makes the case that the rule is broad and prohibits members not only from using the video but also from reposting from sources or using video obtained from news outlets.
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“This is an important rule 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,” the complaint said. “One issue the House Ethics Manual acknowledges is the public perception that incumbents are simply using their office to run for re-election or to run for a higher office, and the reason for that perception is quite evident in Rep. Schiff’s actions. Moreover, his use of official resources does not reflect credibly on the House.”
Schiff’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment, nor did the Office of Congressional Ethics.