U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson has done it again, and this time it’s more than just foul language.
He could be facing a violation of congressional ethics rules that prohibit using official House phone numbers for fundraising.
The Florida congressman and outspoken liberal once more irritated senior House Democrats. Now it’s over a fundraising email that slams members of his own party who support a controversial trade bill.
POLITICO reports that Grayson’s misguided money pitch urges supporters to “petition your government to redress your grievances” for a pending vote giving President Barack Obama “Fast Track” powers to move the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership through Congress. The vote is currently within the House Democratic Caucus.
Grayson’s message continues: “According to public reports, the 18 Democratic Members of Congress listed below are leaning in favor of voting for ‘Fast Track,’ legislation that would prevent Congress from debating or amending whatever the Executive Branch calls a ‘trade bill.’ As a public service, we provide you their office phone numbers,” followed by a list of names and numbers.
The email, signed “Courage, Alan Grayson,” suggests readers visit ActBlue, a liberal-leaning fundraising website, where they are then asked to give any amount from $10 to $2,700.
Although Grayson is well-known for his outrageous personality, it’s a highly unusual move for a lawmaker to target members of his or her own party.
Grayson’s attack has not escaped the notice of senior Democratic leaders.
“I don’t think it’s helpful,” said Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.
“Both [Minority] Leader [Nancy] Pelosi and I have urged members to have respect for one another’s positions,” the Maryland Democrat told POLITICO on Tuesday. “We’ve also urged our friends in labor to have respect.”
Beyond “respect” for his colleagues, Grayson’s stunt — with its call for donations — may have crossed an ethical line.
As noted in the 2008 House Ethics Manual, any political communication, primarily written solicitations for contributions, “should not include any House office addresses” or telephone numbers:
Do Not Direct Contributions to a House Office. A solicitation for campaign or political contributions should not in any way request or suggest that the recipient mail or deliver a contribution to a House office. As explained immediately below, federal law allows the receipt of a contribution in a congressional office, but only if the contribution arrives there unexpectedly. Accordingly, for example, a written solicitation should not include any House office address. (For that matter, a House office address or telephone number should not be included on any political communication.) Likewise, oral solicitations should not contain any suggestion that response may be made to the congressional office.
In an interview on Tuesday, Grayson, who is considering a challenge to Rep. Patrick Murphy, the Democratic establishment favorite in the Florida U.S. Senate race, defended the email. He insisted that it was not “disrespectful” and accused the media of dramatizing the TPP debate.
“This is a good example of democracy in action,” Grayson said to reporters, adding that a video he made on trade received more than 1 million views.