A complaint addressed to the Office of Congressional Ethics claims Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, violated U.S. House rules in an email sent to constituents earlier this week.
However, Braley’s chief of staff said the email and its contents had been approved by multiple House oversight bodies.
The complaint was filed on Wednesday, Aug. 8, by Matt Giese of Dubuque, a former chair of the Dubuque County Republicans. Giese cites House rules in alleging the email sent by Braley equates to campaign literature sent using taxpayer-funded resources. Giese says in the complaint Braley “used official resources of the House of Representatives for blatant campaign purposes in violation of the longstanding principle ‘that government funds should not be spent to help incumbents gain re-election.’”
Braley’s email, sent on Tuesday, Aug. 7, invites constituents to one of two deficit workshops to be held on Monday, Aug. 20, in Waterloo and Cedar Rapids. The issue Giese’s complaint raises is that Cedar Rapids is not in the current 1st Congressional District of Iowa. As a result of redistricting — which will go into effect after this fall’s election — Cedar Rapids is in the new 1st District.
“Based on the fact that Braley does not represent the people of Cedar Rapids, the only conceivable reason that Braley would have in using official taxpayer-funded resources to communicate with the residents of Cedar Rapids is to support his re-election campaign in violation of House ethics rules and federal law,” Giese’s complaint states.
John Davis, Braley’s chief of staff, said the email was approved by the Committee on House Administration, which provides oversight on federal elections, and the House Ethics Committee has signed off on the deficit workshops. Davis supplied a notice from the administration committee which authorizes Braley “to proceed immediately with the printing, production, and/or distribution of this communication.”
“This complaint has no merit,” Davis said. “Rep. Braley strongly believes seeking input from his constituents is essential to his job, especially on a topic as important as reducing the nation’s budget deficit.”
Davis said holding one of the sessions in Cedar Rapids is merely for constituent convenience.
“As is the case in communities across the state where residents live in smaller counties and work and study in larger, neighboring counties, scores of Rep. Braley’s constituents attend school, work and shop in Linn county,” Davis said.
Cody Brown, an adviser to the campaign for Ben Lange, Braley’s Republican challenger, issued a statement:
“Congressman Bruce Braley is using taxpayer resources to fund his re-election campaign. This is an outrageous breach of the public’s trust and we call on the Office of Congressional Ethics to immediately launch a formal congressional investigation into the conduct of Braley’s Washington office.
“Braley should apologize to Iowa taxpayers and because the misuse of official House resources for campaign purposes may violate criminal laws, Braley should also disclose all internal communications related to this improper activity to prove to Iowa taxpayers that this ethical lapse was caused by something other than criminal wrongdoing.”