Florida Democratic Party files ethics complaint on Marco Rubio’s Twitter use
Marco Rubio has a warning about China interfering in domestic affairs.

The Senator's use of @marcorubio, tweeting official Senate activities, spawns a complaint.

The Florida Democratic Party has filed an ethics complaint against Republican Sen. Marco Rubio for allegedly using official U.S. Senate resources on his campaign’s Twitter account — citing the same rule that prompted a complaint against his possible Democratic challenger last year.

The complaint against Rubio filed Wednesday cites seven specific instances in which the Twitter account found on his official campaign website, @marcorubio, also tweets links from his official Senate account @SenRubioPress, which is the Senator’s account for official business. Rules expressly forbid mixing campaign activities and official business, but Rubio’s staff denied that he did so.

One video shared on @marcorubio Feb. 19 shows Rubio sitting in what appears to be his Senate office and discussing the Ukraine situation. That’s a violation of a rule that bans the use of official Senate resources for campaigns, the complaint alleges. At least one of these tweets from @marcorubio involved video footage of an official Senate proceeding, according to the complaint.

“Senator Rubio used official Senate resources for campaign purposes … (violating the rule) which makes it ‘inappropriate to use any official resources to conduct campaign or political activities,’” says the request for an investigation from Benjamin Tyler, General Counsel of the Florida Democratic Party. The letter is addressed to U.S. Sen. Christopher Coons .

Rubio is on track for what could be a tight race with Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings, who is challenging his re-election.

Rubio’s campaign officials say the Democrats’ complaint is based on a false premise: The Twitter account the complaint cites is Rubio’s personal account, managed by the Senator alone, and Senate rules allow him to use it any way he wants, officials said.

Click on the Twitter icon on Rubio’s campaign website, however, and it links to the account that’s the focus of the complaint. And that’s why the complaint labels @marcorubio as the campaign’s Twitter account, officials at the Florida Democratic Party said.

For the official Twitter account of Rubio’s campaign, voters should go to @TeamMarco, Rubio’s staff said. That Twitter account cannot be found on Rubio’s campaign site, however. And it has notably fewer followers than @marcorubio.

The account Rubio’s campaign calls his “personal account” has 4.3 million followers, compared to the 24,700 followers for @TeamMarco.

Demings was just a few hours into her bid for the Senate on June 9 when she allegedly violated the same rule, according to a complaint filed by Foundation for Accountability and Public Trust (FACT). She tweeted a link to her campaign Twitter account from her official U.S Representative Twitter account. The tweet was deleted after it was brought to her attention, The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative-leaning site, reported. It is no longer visible.

FACT made another complaint after Demings was on a Zoom call with Duval County Democrats during deliberations in the House Judiciary Committee. Other complaints involved her use of House mail privileges and fundraising with failed Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s PAC.

The Demings campaign has specifically addressed the charge involving McAuliffe and called it “frivolous.” Her campaign could not be reached for a comment on this story Friday.

No reports on the complaints against Demings are posted to the House Ethics Committee’s website, and a spokesman for the office says no comment is made on the status of complaints, beyond official reports and press releases.

Elizabeth Gregory, spokeswoman for the Rubio campaign, called Wednesday’s complaint against Rubio an effort to distract from “the startling four serious ethics complaints against Demings.”

“Florida Democrats, like Val Demings, can’t seem to keep congressional ethics rules straight,” she said.

The new complaint says it’s Rubio who’s not following ethics rules, however.

The use of official Senate resources for campaign purposes, including staff time and potentially funds from the SenatorsOfficial Personnel and Office Expense Account for production expenses of videos that were ultimately used by the campaign, is a clear violation,” the complaint says.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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