BREAKING: Gardner Facing Ethics Complaint Over First TV Ad
“Similar complaints in recent years have resulted in senators from both parties pulling videos”
A new complaint filed with the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee alleges that Senator Cory Gardner used images of Senate proceedings in the debut TV ad for his reelection campaign — a clear violation of Senate ethics rules. The complaint also alleges that Gardner used his congressional social media account for political purposes in an attempt to tease the ad.
Similar violations have resulted in senators pulling ads, such as Senator Rand Paul’s violation of Senate Ethics rules in 2015.
Colorado Politics first reported the ethics complaint, filed by End Citizens United. This comes as Gardner is facing another ethics complaint for attending a “by-invitation bacchanal” pricey champagne party potentially violating the Senate Ethics gift ban.
Gardner already had to edit the ad less than a week after it went up on air after backlash for using AAA Colorado’s iconic logo without permission.
By ERNEST LUNING | May 29, 2020
A national group devoted to campaign finance reform filed a complaint this week with the Senate Ethics Committee against U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, alleging the Republican improperly used footage from a Senate committee hearing in a campaign ad.
Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United, also charged that Gardner used government resources to tweet the ad’s theme from his official Senate account the night before it began airing.
Muller’s complaint points to a clip from a news program that flashes on screen for a fraction of a second, depicting Gardner chairing a 2015 hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.
It also cites a May 14 tweet from Gardner’s Senate account that pictures a rainbow breaking through the clouds over a farm and says: “Reminders all around Colorado: We will get through this. Together.”
They amount to violations of Senate rules that forbid using images of Senate proceedings and lawmakers’ official internet accounts for political purposes, the complaint says.
“Senator Gardner should spend less time being President Trump’s ‘yes man’ and more time reading up on ethics rules,” Muller said in a statement.
“Senator Gardner completely disregarded these ethics rules because he’s facing the toughest election of his career and he’s desperate. We’re calling on Senator Gardner to immediately take down the ad, and the Senate Ethics Committee should investigate and hold him accountable for these violations.”
“Gardner also said there was no personhood amendment,” Bawadden Sayed, the PAC’s deputy communications director, said in an email. “We’d rather have the ethics committee weigh in than take his word for it.“
Muller offered a preemptory argument against one of the Gardner campaign’s defenses in the complaint.
“Whether Senator Gardner obtained the footage directly from CSPAN or from another media outlet’s re-airing or reporting on the CSPAN coverage is irrelevant,” she wrote. “The clip is a ‘duplication of . . . television coverage of the proceedings of a Senate’ and its use for political purposes is prohibited.”
The tweet, she added, “does not appear to be connected to his official representational duties, which is the only permissible use of the account. Rather, the purpose of the tweet seems to be to reinforce Senator Gardner’s campaign messaging and bolster the soon- to-be-released ad.”
Similar complaints in recent years have resulted in senators from both parties pulling videos that depicted them at work in the Senate.
In 2015, Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky removed a video from his nascent presidential campaign’s YouTube page after the Republican-led Senate Rules Committee advised Paul it violated the rules.
“Use of any duplication of television coverage of the proceedings of the Senate for campaign purposes is strictly prohibited,” Brian Hart, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the committee’s chairman, R-Missouri, said.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin in 2017 removed a Twitter video of her speaking during a committee hearing after a local group raised the possibility it violated the rules.