Donald Trump cheapened the solemn dignity of the State of the Union address in the House of Representatives. He flashed the scrolling names of Republican campaign donors across the live-streamed speech on his reelection campaign Facebook page and Twitter feed. Now, the Speaker of the House is in big trouble.
Public Citizen is a nonprofit committed to protecting our democracy. After Trump’s stunt, it has called for the U.S. Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) and the House of Representatives Ethics Committee to investigate Speaker Paul Ryan. It believes he violated House rules when he allowed the Trump campaign to broadcast the State of the Union for fundraising purposes.
Trump urged new donors to make a campaign contribution in exchange for having their names listed in a crawl at the bottom of the screen. Trump may have violated Federal Election Commission (FEC) laws, too.
On its website, Public Citizen said there was a “fundamental flaw with elections in this country: big money:”
‘Politicians need big bucks to run their campaigns and they get most of it from wealthy donors and special interests. Those contributors expect paybacks in the form of special access, favorable legislation, earmarks, government contracts, or plum government jobs. Because of this corrupting influence of money, many Americans have lost faith in politics and feel neglected by our democracy. Ordinary citizens who want to serve in government don’t have access to money and are locked out of the system, unable to afford running for office.’
The complaint referred to Rule V of the Rules of the House of Representatives, which stated:
‘The speaker is responsible for administering official broadcasts and recordings of floor proceedings and that these official audio and visual transmissions shall not be used for partisan campaign activities.’
Public Citizen President Robert Weissman said:
‘Donald Trump commercialized and corrupted yet another national institution, making this just the latest disgraceful degradation by Trump of the presidency and our public institutions. This blatant selling of the presidency also appears to violate rules, which is why we are filing today’s complaint. Putting donors’ names on the screen essentially says, “This presidency is brought to you by Goldman Sachs, Dow Chemical, Koch Industries and Murray Energy.”‘
Government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, Craig Holman, noted:
‘Never before has the State of the Union address been used for such blatant campaign purposes, but on Tuesday night, the address was livestreamed specifically for campaign fundraising by the Trump campaign committee. A speech intended to lay out the policy agenda for the nation has been denigrated into a simple campaign fundraiser.’
Public Citizen Vice President of Legislative Affairs Lisa Gilbert commented:
‘This inappropriate use of the State of the Union to advertise campaign access is the opposite of the “drain the swamp” presidency on which Trump based his campaign. This administration has no shame. This latest outrage underscores the need for national reform to our system of moneyed politics.’
The Public Citizen’s complaint against Ryan can be reached at this link.
Featured Image via Getty Images/Alex Wong.