Three high-profile figures in the world of ethics have formally requested an investigation into Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) from the Senate Ethics Committee. The request centers on the recent revelation that Graham had personally spoken with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), who says that Graham asked about the possibility of throwing out legally cast votes in the state, which President-elect Biden won by a thin margin. Although Graham has denied the allegation that he asked about throwing out totally valid ballots, those behind the complaint insist that there “can be no legitimate reason for the Judiciary Committee’s chairman to call a top election official regarding an ongoing vote count” in the first place.
In short, Graham’s behavior seems to constitute a potential attempt to intimidate a top state elections official. Graham, who was recently re-elected, currently serves as the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The potential power imbalance between Graham and Raffensperger is obvious.
Former Office of Government Ethics chief Walter Shaub, former White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter, and Claire Finkelstein, who works as the director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law, are responsible for the new request for an investigation into Graham. Acknowledging the conflicting accounts of the questionable interaction, they said, in part, as follows:
‘If these allegations are true, Senator Graham’s conduct constitutes an abuse of office and conduct unbecoming of a senator. For the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to suggest to a state Secretary of State that he refrain from counting lawful votes threatens the electoral process and damages representative democracy. The Senate Select Committee should investigate this matter and, if it finds Chairman Graham committed the alleged misconduct, seek an appropriate sanction or any other appropriate remedy.’
In The Washington Post‘s description, Graham “asked whether Raffensperger had the power to toss all mail ballots in counties found to have higher rates of nonmatching signatures,” according to Georgia’s Secretary of State. According to the Post, Raffensperger “said he was stunned that Graham appeared to suggest that he find a way to toss legally cast ballots.” Graham has denied Raffensperger’s characterization of their conversation — as the Post summarizes, he said that he merely wanted to “understand the state’s signature-matching requirements.” Graham does know how to use Google, right?