FACT RELEASES WORST ETHICS VIOLATORS of 2016
Updated: Mar 19, 2019
Ethics Watchdog Called for Probe of Senate Majority PAC, DCCC
for Multiple, Illegal Coordination Violations
(Washington, D.C.) – December 7, 2016 -The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), a non-partisan ethics watchdog group directed by former U.S. Attorney from Iowa, Matthew G. Whitaker, today released the group’s worst ethics violators of 2016. Of particular note, FACT uncovered a stealthy and illegal coordination scheme between a Democratic PAC and 5 U.S. Senate candidates, while the group also asked for an investigation into the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) for making illegal and excessive contributions to several House candidates and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Also making the list, for the second straight year, is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the longstanding investigation into her emails and use of a personal email server.
“This year many of those running for elected office, as well as current elected officials, openly challenged and brazenly disregarded our nation’s campaign finance laws in ways we had never seen,” said Matthew Whitaker, Executive Director, Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT). “Since many Americans are not familiar with these laws, it is even more imperative that we shine a light on this egregious and illegal behavior. I’m proud FACT played a leading role in exposing this wrongdoing, because those who want to write and enforce our nation’s laws shouldn’t think they are above them.”
Below is a summary of FACT’s most high profile complaints for 2016:
One disturbing trend FACT uncovered during this past election cycle was finding several U.S. Senate candidates using their public campaign websites to illegally and stealthily coordinate with super PACs that supported their candidacies. In many of these cases, the campaign would create a separate “voters need to know” section on their website to communicate with super PACs about what television ads they want the super PACs to run. They even went so far as to identify the specific media markets for those ads. Once the desired ad was run by outside groups, the information was updated with new instructions. The Democratic Senate Majority PAC seemed to be the overwhelming agent for these ads. FACT maintains this was a violation of our nation’s campaign finance laws because those laws clearly prohibit a candidate from requesting, either directly or indirectly, a super PAC to run certain ads or republish candidate campaign materials. FACT filed FEC complaints against: Catherine Cortez Masto (NV), Evan Bayh (IN), Ted Strickland (OH), Patrick Murphy (FL) and Katie McGinty (PA).
In October, FACT filed complaints with the FEC against 14 Democratic House candidates, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Hillary for America. The complaints alleged that all of these entities committed egregious and unlawful campaign finance violations involving the use of so-called “hybrid” campaign television ads that tied Republican candidates to Donald Trump. FACT’s complaint maintained that these ads were anything but hybrid in nature because they didn’t give a generic reference to candidates of a particular party, which is crucial to the concept of hybrid advertisements. Since the party reference, Republican or Democrat, was replaced with an explicit attack on Donald Trump, these ads violated FEC law because hybrid ads do not allow for the defeat of a particular candidate as a substitution for the standard ‘generic party reference.’ The candidates in question were Tom Nelson (WI-08), Steve Santarsiero (PA-08), Suzanna Shkreli (MI-08), Ruben Kihuen (NV-04), Jim Mowrer (IA-03), Stephanie Murphy (FL-07), Colleen Deacon (NY-24), Michael Eggman (CA-10), Pete Gallego (TX-23), Doug Applegate (CA-49), Bryan Caforio (CA-25), Morgan Carroll (CO-06), LuAnn Bennett (VA-10) and Christina Hartman (PA-16).
Back in June, several Democratic House Members staged a marathon sit-in to demand a vote on gun control. During this event, some Members used the occasion to solicit campaign contributions. FACT filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics maintaining that this activity was a clear ethical violation. Congressional ethics rules state that representatives cannot fundraise based upon official actions they take as House Members. This rule exists to ensures that Representatives act in good faith and on merit, and not for personal or political gain.
After reports surfaced in September that more than $9 million of Department of State money was steered to a non-profit foundation started and run by Secretary of State John Kerry’s daughter, FACT asked the State Department Inspector General, Steve A. Linick, for a comprehensive investigation. The act of using government resources to provide a financial benefit to a family member’s philanthropic interest, especially without competition, is a blatant violation of ethics rules.
FACT filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the offices of 17 attorneys general seeking all documents and communications related to the activities of the Attorneys General United for Clean Power Coalition, which was formed to target public policy organizations and private companies, like Exxon Mobil, who disagreed with the left’s radical climate change agenda. FACT argued that this effort was unlawful and a blatant, Orwellian attack on the First Amendment’s right to free speech. In response to FACT’s inquiries, several AG offices played the “do as I say, not as I do” game by denying FACT’s requests.
FACT asked the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to investigate Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate Joe Sestak and New York congressional candidate and retired Army Colonel, William “Mike” Derrick for repeatedly and improperly using their military rank in campaign materials. Military veterans can use their service to promote their campaigns, but it must be accompanied by a disclaimer to indicate that their campaigns are not being endorsed by the Department of Defense or a particular Military Department. Both Sestak and Derrick repeatedly violated this protocol, saying this rule didn’t apply to them.
Back in June, FACT sent a letter to the Connecticut Citizen's Ethics Advisory Board asking for Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Katherine Wade to recuse herself from ruling on the proposed Cigna-Anthem Merger because of her and her family’s well documented financial, personal and political ties to Cigna. This letter was a follow-up to FACT’s complaint against Wade on this issue last year. After the June letter, the Board voted to launch an ethics review of Commissioner Wade. FACT maintained that Commissioner Wade’s connections to Cigna not only created a conflict of interest, but that she also made inconsistent and false statements regarding her affiliation with Cigna, which is criminal behavior. In September, Commissioner Wade rightfully recused herself from the merger’s review.
In March, FACT released some of the most ethically challenged emails from Hillary Clinton’s time at the State Department. From granting special access to Clinton’s campaign and Clinton Foundation donors, to assisting her son-in-law’s business contact, to ordering aides to act counter to security protocol, overwhelming evidence pointed to the fact that she abused her official position to help her friends and advance her political interests, all while putting our national security at great risk. As a result of these egregious actions, FACT Executive Director, Matthew Whitaker, twice called for a Special Counsel to investigate this case.
FACT is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency in government and civic arenas. For more on FACT, visit: http://www.factdc.org/.