by Max Brantley
These principles apply no less to the Members themselves. Congressman Cotton appears to have flagrantly violated them, by taking a campaign interview from the Capitol. He cannot claim that Mr. Hewitt's inquiry about his fundraising was "incidental," when it was the very first question he was asked, and when he converted it into a blatant appeal for campaign funds.
There is substantial reason to believe also that Congressman Cotton, by making his fundraising appeal from the Capitol, violated a federal criminal law that makes it unlawful for "Members of Congress, to solicit or receive a donation of money or other thing of value in connection with a Federal, State, or local election, while in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties ..."
The Committee on Ethics warns Members that this prohibition "is very broad." "The statute by its terms applies to the House office buildings, the Capitol, and district offices." Id. With an exception for Member-to-Member solicitations not implicated here, "the prohibition applies to all forms of solicitations – solicitations made in person, over the telephone, or through the mail ... A telephone solicitation from a House office or building would not be permissible merely because the call is billed to a credit card of a political organization or to an outside telephone number, or because it is made using a cell phone in the hallway."
Finally, the Congressman's disavowals, through staff, of Mr. Hewitt's statements — "He isn't responsible for correcting Hugh's misstatements about his location" — show a fundamental misunderstanding of his obligations under House Rules. It is the Congressman, not Mr. Hewitt, who must "conduct himself at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House." House Rule 23, Clause 1. Even if the Congressman were on his way out the Capitol door while making his fundraising pitch over Mr. Hewitt's airwaves, as his staff says he was, he was obliged nonetheless to avoid the impression that he allowed Mr. Hewitt to create.