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FACT Releases Top Ethics Violation & Violators of 2022

Updated: 5 days ago

Washington, D.C. --- December 27, 2022 --- The non-partisan ethics watchdog group, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), today released its “Top Ethics Violation and Violators of 2022”.

At the close of each year FACT has traditionally released a “Top Ten Violators” list. However, looking back on political ethics in 2022 reveals that the biggest story was not individual elected officials committing violations, but rather was the surge in a specific type of violation—those having to do with official’s own personal finances. Thus, this year FACT’s annual look back is titled “Top Ethics VIOLATION” of the year.

Unfortunately, over the past year there has been a large spike in ethics violations involving Members of Congress and their personal finances. This primarily took the form of two types of violations: (1) not disclosing financial interests or (2) instances where personal financial interests intersected with their official duties. Regarding the second, Members have an ethical duty to both be transparent and to be extremely careful that these two things don’t overlap. There has been a disturbing trend where these types of violations have risen and we’ve seen the evidence in the number of ethics complaints filed. Some examples are:

  • U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR): In November, FACT requested the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) investigate whether Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s purchase of stock in a company directly related to his oversight role on the Health Subcommittee violated conflict of interest laws. In September, Rep. Blumenauer’s wife purchased up to $15,000 of stock shares in the biopharmaceutical company Amgen. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it was spending $290 million for supplies of Amgen’s drug Nplate, resulting in Amgen stock surging over 24%. Rep. Blumenauer happens to sit on the House Ways and Means Committee and its Health Subcommittee, handling legislation and oversight related to programs paying for healthcare.

  • U.S. Congresswoman Kathy Manning (NC): In March, FACT filed a complaint with the OCE requesting an investigation into Rep. Kathy Manning for failing to disclose financial stock trades valued at up to $1.25 million. Manning and her husband made 51 stock transactions in 2021 and did not disclose the stock trades until February 2022. Many of Rep. Manning’s trades were in tech stocks that could be hugely impacted by legislative battles unfolding in Congress this past year. Rep. Manning was one of eight Representatives seeking to delay the package of antitrust legislation from moving forward in the House Judiciary Committee.

  • U.S. Congressman Tom Suozzi (NY): Twice in 2022, FACT filed complaints against Suozzi for not disclosing over $1 million of stock trades, which included technology and defense companies subject to congressional oversight. Some of his trades were unknown until four years later, thus rendering the disclosure laws worthless.

  • U.S. Congresswoman Susie Lee (NV): In September, FACT filed a complaint against Rep. Lee for repeatedly failing to disclose stock trades, specifically from 2020 to 2022 she continually disclosed over $3 million dollars in stock trades months or even years late across multiple filings.

  • Beyond members of Congress, Senior White House Advisor Anita Dunn, for working at the White House without publicly disclosing her financial information: In June, FACT filed a complaint requesting the Office of Government Ethics investigate Senior Advisor to the President, Anita Dunn, for failing to file the required public personal financial disclosure. Prior to her tenure in the Biden Administration, Dunn had co-founded the political consulting firm SKDK. Subsequently, from January 2021 to June 2022, she had either been employed by the White House, SKDK, or both at the same time, but had not filed any public financial disclosure reports detailing her extensive ties with her private company while she was in a senior advisory role at the White House.

FACT’S Other Top Violators of 2022

Not all violations were of the personal financial variety. A few other notable violators in other areas were:

Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm:

U.S. Office of Special Counsel: Secretary Jennifer Granholm Violated the Hatch Act

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm faced multiple FACT complaints between October 2021 and today for a Hatch Act violation and for improperly reporting financial disclosures. In June, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel agreed with FACT that Secretary Granholm had violated the Hatch Act. In October 2021, Secretary Granholm was interviewed in her official capacity as Energy Secretary and proceeded to discuss the importance of electing progressive Democrats to help pass President Biden’s spending plan, prompting FACT to file a Hatch Act complaint.

Additionally, in February, FACT requested the Inspector General investigate Secretary Granholm for improperly reporting up to $250,000 in stock transactions. Secretary Granholm nor the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) have been clear about Granholm’s overt violations. Secretary Granholm made nine stock transactions between April and October 2021 but did not disclose these transactions until December 2021, clearly outside the legal reporting window. Secretary Granholm’s investments included shares in Gilead Sciences Inc. (creator of Covid-19 treatment Remdesivir), Uber, and the real estate company Redfin.

U.S. Congresswoman Marie Newman (D-IL):

Ethics Watchdog Calls for FEC Investigation into Rep. Marie Newman

FACT filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) to investigate Congresswoman Marie Newman regarding her promising federal employment for procuring political support. According to court records, both Newman and Iyman Chehade intended to run for Congress in 2020 to represent Illinois’ Third District. In a deliberate effort to prevent Chehade from running against her in the primary, Rep. Newman promised Chehade government employment should she win the election. Moreover, in December 2018, Rep. Newman and Chehade entered into a written contract to memorialize Newman’s offer of federal government employment.

FACT’s complaint led to an investigation by the OCE, which referred the case to the House Ethics Committee for further action. FACT then filed a second complaint with the FEC against Rep. Newman in January 2022 for illegally misusing campaign funds that stemmed from the initial OCE investigation.

U.S. Congresswoman Cindy Axne (D-IA):

Ethics Watchdog Calls for Investigation into Rep. Cindy Axne for Violating House Proxy Voting Rules

In September, FACT filed a complaint requesting the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) investigate Congresswoman Cindy Axne for abusing the House’s proxy voting rules. Rep. Axne stated to the House Clerk that she could not vote in person due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, but the real reason was so she could vacation in France, as she later admitted. In August, she filed a letter to the House Clerk stating she was unable to attend proceedings due to Covid-19. However, contrary to her statement to the House Clerk, an Instagram post by Rep. Axne’s son showed her and her family in Paris the day before the vote.

U.S. Congresswoman Val Demings (D-FL):

Ethics Watchdog Calls for Investigation into Rep. Val Demings for Abusing COVID-19 House Rules

In May 2022, FACT filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) against Rep. Val Demings for abusing COVID-19 rules permitting virtual attendance at House Committee proceedings in order for her to simultaneously attend a campaign event during an official House proceeding. In April, Rep. Demings remotely participated in a House Judiciary Committee hearing. However, at the same time, and during the actual committee proceedings, Rep. Demings remotely spoke at a political event held over Zoom to promote her Senate candidacy. Her remote attendance can be seen in the video recordings of both events.

Rep. Demings even proceeded to apologize while speaking at the virtual political event because she was waiting for her name to be called to vote in the House proceeding. She then failed to mute her microphone while Zooming into the House proceeding and, during the House voting, she could be heard speaking to the individuals at the political event.

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