The Senate Select Committee on Senate Ethics formally admonished Sen. Lindsey Graham (RS.C.) in a letter Thursday for soliciting campaign contributions for the 2022 Senate runoff race in Georgia during an interview with Fox News in the Russell Senate Office Building.
During the nine-minute interview with Fox, the ethics committee found that Graham “directly solicited campaign contributions” on “five separate occasions” on behalf of Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker.
The panel concluded that Graham “conducted campaign activity in a federal building without permission” and violated the standard that senators can use public resources only for official activities and not for partisan political activities.
“Your actions failed to uphold that standard, and as a result harmed public trust and confidence in the United States Senate. You are here as instructed,” said Senate Ethics Committee Chairman Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Vice Chairman James Lankford (R-Okla. ) wrote to Graham on 23 March.
In October 2020, the committee disclosed that Graham had violated Senate standards of conduct when he “directly solicited campaign contributions” to his own campaign team during a media briefing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
Coons and Lankford, behavior is “careless, technical or otherwise De minimis Nature” and eventually dismissed the complaint about the incident in March 2021. Graham was informed of the discovery and action by private letter.
However, the Ethics Committee considered the October 2020 violation of Senate rules in its decision to publicly admonish Graham on Thursday.
It noted that Graham solicited contributions for Walker’s campaign “despite specific guidance from the committee following your breach in October 2020.”
After receiving a complaint that included a link to a video clip of the interview, the group informed Graham that it had opened an investigation into Graham’s solicitation of funds for Walker.
Walker in the December runoff for Sen. Lost to Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.).
The panel acknowledged that Graham had provided information to the panel during the investigation.
Federal law — 18 USC Section 607 — restricts the solicitation or receipt of political contributions in federal buildings or other federal facilities, according to the Senate Ethics Manual.
It states that “it shall be unlawful for any person to demand or receive any contribution in any room or building in the performance of official duties.”
The letter is notable for the fact that ethics committees rarely take public action against sitting senators.
In April 2018, the panel admonished Sen. Bob Menendez (DN.J.) for violating Senate standards by “repeatedly knowingly” accepting gifts of “significant value” from supporters without obtaining official approval and failing to disclose those gifts.
The Justice Department indicted Menendez in 2015 for accepting improper gifts, but failed to convict him at trial.
In November 2017, the Ethics Commission publicly announced that it had opened a preliminary investigation into the allegations against then-Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has accused five women of sexually assaulting him.
Franken later apologized for his behavior.
This story was updated at 7:36 p.m
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