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WASHINGTON, D.C. Jan. 31, 2018 – The U.S. House of Representatives Ethics Committee and the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) should investigate whether Speaker Paul Ryan violated House rules by allowing the Trump campaign to use a broadcast of the State of the Union address for campaign fundraising purposes, Public Citizen said in a complaint filed today.
Rule V of the Rules of the House of Representatives states that the speaker is responsible for administering official broadcasts and recordings of floor proceedings and that these official audio and visual transmissions shall not be used for partisan campaign activities. The State of the Union address was broadcast from the floor of the House, which was then livestreamed on Trump’s reelection campaign Facebook page and Twitter feed. New donors were encouraged to make a campaign contribution in exchange for having their names listed in a crawl at the bottom of the screen.
“Donald Trump commercialized and corrupted yet another national institution, making this just the latest disgraceful degradation by Trump of the presidency and our public institutions,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “This blatant selling of the presidency also appears to violate rules, which is why we are filing today’s complaint. Putting donors’ names on the screen essentially says, ‘This presidency is brought to you by Goldman Sachs, Dow Chemical, Koch Industries and Murray Energy.’”
“Never before has the State of the Union address been used for such blatant campaign purposes, but on Tuesday night, the address was livestreamed specifically for campaign fundraising by the Trump campaign committee,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen. “A speech intended to lay out the policy agenda for the nation has been denigrated into a simple campaign fundraiser.”
“This inappropriate use of the State of the Union to advertise campaign access is the opposite of the ‘drain the swamp’ presidency on which Trump based his campaign,” said Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs for Public Citizen. “This administration has no shame. This latest outrage underscores the need for national reform to our system of moneyed politics.”
Public Citizen’s complaint against Ryan is available at https://www.citizen.org/sites/default/files/sotu_complaint_0.pdf.