Ruh roh, Raggy
Things have started to heat up for Republican Congressman Fred Upton on the heels of revelations that he and a top staffer for his House committee made harrassing calls to funders of the MaydayPAC that is supporting his opponent Democrat Paul Clements. The American Democracy Legal Fund is has now formally called for an investigation into possible illegal activities and ethics violations by Upton:
The American Democracy Legal Fund has requested the Office of Congressional Ethics investigate whether Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) violated federal law and House rules by improperly threatening with retribution those who contributed to a super PAC that supports his challenger in the upcoming election.
As reported by the Huffington Post, Gary Andres, staff director of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Upton, angrily called numerous Silicon Valley executives who have contributed money to Mayday PAC, a crowdfunded super PAC created by Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig to target for defeat members of Congress who have not supported campaign finance reform.
You can read their complaint HERE.
This is serious business. If Fred Upton is using his position of considerable power as the Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to threaten MaydayPAC’s donors, it is a scandal of epic proportions. Keep in mind that his aide, Gary Andres, was haranguing “the CEOs of major Silicon Valley tech companies” over which Upton’s committee has jurisdiction so threats coming from him would have real teeth.
The complaint alleges that Upton broke three rules: A House rule that says members of Congress are “not to take or withhold any official action on the basis of campaign contributions or support of the involved individuals or their partisan affiliation,”
House Rule 23, which requires all members of the House to conduct themselves “at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House,” and federal law which says that “[a]ppropriations shall be applied only to the objects for which the appropriations were made.” This last one comes into play if Upton or Andres made the calls during official government time and/or used government phones to do so.
Perhaps this brewing scandal is why Upton has refused to reschedule a debate with Paul Clements that he cancelled last week due to a House hearing on the “Ebola crisis”. Although Upton knew about the hearing weeks in advance, he canceled the debate at the 11th hour and has refused to reschedule it according to the Clements campaign.
The League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties released this statement regarding the cancellation:
The League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties regrets that we have been unable to reschedule the Upton/Clements debate as one of the campaigns has declined, stating that their calendar was full. The forum originally scheduled for October 16 was cancelled after we were advised Mr. Upton would be unable to participate.
The League views candidate debates as a critical part of our democratic process, whereby the candidates appear together to answer questions and debate the issues of the day and the citizens come to be informed before they cast their ballot.
This event was to have been the only head-to-head debate scheduled between and Upton and Clements.
Clements himself released this statement following the news that Upton refused to debate him:
Voters in the 6th district deserved an opportunity to hear both candidates discuss their competing visions for Michigan and America. To avoid a vigorous ideas-based debate is a disservice to the voters, and Congressman Upton’s reluctance to debate demonstrates contempt or ambivalence for the democratic process.
Unfortunately, Congressman Upton has proven that instead of focusing on his constituents, he is beholden to the monied interests that fund his campaign accounts. I would welcome Congressman Upton to reconsider his decision not to debate, and I will make myself available for the time of his choosing.