- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 13, 2020

A watchdog group filed ethics complaints against three Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee for campaign violations, including against Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia, for illegal campaign coordination with her former employer, gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety.

Americans for Public Trust also says Rep. Madeleine Dean, a freshman congresswoman from Pennsylvania, used funds from her lieutenant governor race in her congressional campaign, and Washington Democrat Rep. Pramila Jayapal violated House rules by using a C-SPAN video of a committee hearing on her legislation to ask for contributions from her followers.

The group, founded by former National Republican Congressional Committee research director Caitlin Sutherland, filed its complaints with the Federal Election Commission and Office of Congressional Ethics.

“All three of these members have engaged in disturbing activities that appear to us to be violations of federal law and House rules. This is especially alarming given all three sit on the prestigious House Judiciary Committee, which has direct oversight responsibilities over the U.S. Department of Justice and, by extension, the nation’s law enforcement,” Adam Laxalt, outside counsel to Americans for Public Trust, said in a statement Wednesday.

The group accused Ms. McBath, a freshman lawmaker, of making a public appearance on CNN as both a national spokesman of Everytown and as a congressional candidate within two months of launching her campaign in March 2018. They said she was also receiving donations from Everytown during that time.

“If Everytown’s spending was coordinated with Rep. McBath, it would constitute millions of dollars in illegal campaign contributions that were unreported, excessive and prohibited by law,” the group’s statement stated.

Everytown’s first FEC reported contribution to Ms. McBath’s campaign was in late April 2018 after she left the organization and a month after she began her congressional campaign.

Americans for Public Trust said Ms. Dean used funds from her state race for expenses in her congressional campaign such as her campaign website, fundraising software and staff reimbursements.

A representative from Ms. Dean’s office said the allegations are “incorrect and without merit.” He said the funds in question were used for legitimate expenses for the state campaign, including outstanding expenses that were incurred during her bid for lieutenant governor.

“The complaint nowhere acknowledges that FEC rules expressly allow a federal candidate to spend non-federal funds for their state campaign,” he said in a statement to The Washington Times. “The complaint also ignores the fact that after withdrawing from the race for lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, Rep. Dean was still a state candidate, lawfully running to retain her seat in the General Assembly of Pennsylvania (PA House District 153) until July of that year.”

Ms. Jayapal, a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is accused of violating House rules in April 2019 by promoting a C-SPAN video of a committee hearing on her “Medicare for All” legislation and using it to ask for contributions.

The Office of Congressional Ethics cannot comment on any complaints or potential investigations, a staffer said.

The FEC can receive new complaints, but is unable to investigate because it is operating without a quorum of four commissioners, Christian Hillian, deputy press officer, told The Times.

The Washington Times also contacted the offices of Ms. McBath and Ms. Jayapal but did not receive a response.

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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