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Bernie Sanders: Senate Presser Doesn't Flout Ethics Rules

Image: Bernie Sanders: Senate Presser Doesn't Flout Ethics Rules
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By    |   Thursday, 30 Apr 2015 09:44 AM

Bernie Sanders has yet to officially announce his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, but the Vermont senator is already denying he is blurring the line between official and campaign business.

"Some things you can do and certain things you can't do and we've been told we can do this," Jeff Frank, Sanders Senate press aide, told CQ Roll Call when asked about a press conference Thursday in the Senate Radio/TV gallery.

According to Senate Ethics Committee Guidelines related to campaign activity, "official resources (Senate space, equipment, staff time, and supplies) should not be used to assist campaign organizations. However, certain de minimis overlap between the Senate office and the campaign inevitably may occur and is permissible."

Although the committee's website does not clearly spell out the use of the press galleries, it does lay out rules for communications regarding campaign issues or activities.

"The Senate press secretary may answer occasional campaign questions, and may also respond to such questions that are merely incidental to an interview focused on the Senator's official activities.  However, while in the Senate office, the press secretary should not give an interview that is substantially devoted to the campaign, or initiate any call that is campaign-related.  A press secretary wishing to do either of those things should do so outside of congressional space, and on his or her own time," state the Ethics Rules.

"Everything up here is paid for by official funds so all things we do must be official," one Senate aide told Roll Call.

The congressional newspaper noted that Page 153 of the Ethics Manual concludes that it is "inappropriate to use any official resources to conduct campaign or political activities" and that a "Senator has the responsibility to ensure that such an overlap is of a de minimis nature and that any campaign responsibilities do not conflict with or detract from official staff duties."

Sanders, an independent from Vermont, said on Wednesday that he would be officially launching his presidential campaign as a Democrat sometime before the end of the month, leaving him little wiggle room.

While he is not formally a candidate, Sanders has not shied away from teasing his campaign and his "agenda" for the future.

For example, on Wednesday Sanders' official Twitter account was used to circulate a photo featuring three questions "every candidate for president must answer."

Additionally, his Senate website showcases his "agenda for America," which lists 12 steps needed to get the country on the right course.

And leading the April 29 "newswatch" on his official site are links to several articles previewing Sanders' presidential campaign announcement, and separately introduced an article by Bloomberg News by noting that on "the same day that Hillary Clinton visited three homes of wealthy Manhattan benefactors to raise an estimated $1 million in campaign funds, Sen. Sanders gave a Howard University audience a sneak preview of a campaign platform."

In 2014, the Tea Party Patriots filed a Senate Ethics Complaint against then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid alleging that he crossed the line into campaign activity by attacking conservative businessmen Charles and David Koch from the floor of the Senate.

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Bernie Sanders has yet to officially announce his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, but the Vermont senator is already denying he is blurring the line between official and campaign business.
Bernie Sanders, Senate, press conference, campaign
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2015-44-30
Thursday, 30 Apr 2015 09:44 AM
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