Ethics Watchdog Calls for Investigation into Members of Congress Involved in Quid Pro Quo Scheme
FACT Says 15 Lawmakers Attempted to Coerce
Private Company with Promise of Legislative Action
Washington, D.C.— August 22, 2019 —The non-partisan ethics watchdog, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), has filed a complaint today with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) requesting an investigation into fifteen Members of Congress for their involvement in an apparent quid pro quo arrangement with a private company.
According to FACT’s complaint, the Members all signed a letter to the Chairman and CEO of Red Rock Resorts, Inc., Frank Fertitta III, urging Fertitta to allow company employees to “form a union and collectively bargain.” However, the letter then referenced an unrelated, pending bill in Congress that would change a provision of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) governing building improvements. Ironically, last December Red Rock Resorts signed a letter to Congress requesting that this very provision, one that would financially benefit Fertitta’s company, be changed.
The letter notes in part:
“We believe that all the parties adversely affected by the bill deserve a chance to make their voices heard. We also believe that employees at your facilities deserve a chance to make their voices heard.”
“This is a clear case of Members of Congress using pending legislation before the House to attempt to coerce a private citizen’s behavior,” said Kendra Arnold, Executive Director, Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT). “Because the pending legislation invoked had absolutely nothing to do with the Members’ ask, the purpose of the letter was clear and should have never been sent.”
According to House ethics rules, this type of implied quid pro quo – one where a Member specifies a type of action from a citizen in exchange for their own promised action on a piece of legislation that would benefit the citizen – is clearly prohibited. Furthermore, the complaint notes, that just the implication of this threat alone is enough to breach ethics rules, regardless of whether the Members follow through with their threat.
The Members signing the letter were: Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI), Darren Soto (D-FL), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Steven Horsford (D-NV), Susie Lee (D-NV), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) , Eleanor Holmes Norton (Democratic Del.), Brendan F. Boyle (D-PA), Dina Titus (D-NV), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).
FACT has requested the OCE immediately investigate and take the appropriate action in response to this violation of House Ethics Rules and the Official Code of Conduct.
A full copy of the complaint can be read here.
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/.