GOP Swearing-In Absentees May Have Violated House Ethics Rules With Fundraiser

January 07, 2011 3:03 pm ET — Kate Conway

Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick

The story about Reps. Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) missing their swearing-in and possibly not being official members of Congress while conducting their business on the House floor has gotten a lot of attention for the amusement factor, but the Sunlight Foundation points out a more serious related issue: The fundraiser the two almost-representatives were holding instead of attending their own induction may have violated House Rules

"House rooms and offices are not to be used for events that are campaign or political in nature, such as a meeting on campaign strategy, or a reception for campaign contributors," according to the House Ethics Manual.

The Ethics Manual identifies an exception -- "when a Member is sworn in, the Member may hold a 'swearing-in' reception in a House office building that is paid for with campaign funds" -- but the event was a fundraiser, not merely a simple "swearing-in" ceremony.

A spokesman for Fitzpatrick told the Huffington Post's Ryan Grim that the event was not a fundraiser and that anyone could attend. The information available shows that the invite was a solicitation for campaign funds and was very different from other lawmaker invites for celebrations held in official House offices and buildings.

The Sunlight Foundation also reports that the invitations requested "at least" $30 from each attendee, and that the money ended up in Rep. Fitzpatrick's campaign account, accompanied by an FEC disclaimer. 

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