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Posted at 4:41 PM ET, 01/12/2011

Watchdog group files ethics complaint against lawmakers who missed swearing-in

By Felicia Sonmez

Updated: 5:25 p.m.

A watchdog group has filed a formal complaint against the two lawmakers who missed last week's swearing-in ceremony for the 112th Congress, accusing the congressmen of violating House rules, federal law and the Constitution.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington announced Wednesday afternoon that it has requested that the Office of Congressional Ethics investigate whether Reps. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.) broke ethics rules.

CREW charges that both lawmakers violated the Constitution, the law and House rules by "acting as House members despite failing to be sworn in" and that Fitzpatrick "violated federal law and House rules by holding a fundraiser" in the Capitol.

Fitzpatrick and Sessions were attending a reception for Fitzpatrick in the Capitol Visitors Center while the rest of the new Congress was being sworn in Jan. 5. Fitzpatrick has said that the reception was not a fundraiser, noting that the event was open to anyone who wanted to attend and that a $30 fee for the event was intended to cover transportation costs from the lawmaker's district to Washington.

CREW contends otherwise. "The invitation lists a $30 per person cost, permits a donor to select a specified number of tickets, and lists contribution amounts of $30, $60, $90, $120, as well as others," said Melanie Sloan, the group's executive director. "Furthermore, the invitation also instructs individuals who prefer to donate by check to make checks payable to Fitzpatrick for Congress."

A spokesperson for Fitzpatrick said the lawmaker welcomes the CREW review.

"The reception held last week in the Capitol Visitors Center was not a fundraiser," Fitzpatrick spokesperson Darren Smith said. "It was open and free to all comers and held in compliance with the House Ethics Manual."

Sessions spokesperson Torrie Miller said that Sessions "and the House have taken the actions necessary to rectify the error, and he has formally apologized to his colleagues. He looks forward to moving past this incident and serving his constituents in the 112th Congress."

Last week, Fitzpatrick told the Philadelphia Inquirer that House officials "gave us very specific instructions that campaign funds could be used for that purpose. ... There was no charge. It was not a fund-raiser, and it is quite a stretch to suggest otherwise."

Fitzpatrick, who his spokesman said had already signed the written oath of office provided by the Clerk of the House, was re-administered the oath by the speaker on Jan. 6. Sessions took the oath on the floor the same day.

By Felicia Sonmez  | January 12, 2011; 4:41 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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Next: House passes resolution honoring victims of Tucson shooting rampage

Comments

Wow, what hubris these two congressmen have...to place themselves above the Oath of Congress, the Constitution as well as established laws?

Damn...something to think about.

Posted by: wishingwell66 | January 13, 2011 2:08 PM | Report abuse

sounds like Fitzpatrick and Sessions are the new Abbott and Costello.

Posted by: MarilynManson | January 13, 2011 12:56 PM | Report abuse

How do you skip your swearing in?!!!! Shouldn't they be there with their family and peers for such an important ceremony? Ugh. What idiots.

Posted by: Chigliak | January 13, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

The article fails to mention that BOTH Republicans also VOTED without being sworn in! They KNEW they were wrong.

Their votes were later stricken from the Congressional Record.

Posted by: angie12106 | January 13, 2011 10:41 AM | Report abuse

fuobama wrote:

"The WP forgot one importan fact - CREW is a left wing hate group - so take whatever they say with a grain of salt"

And now we have to take everything YOU say with a grain of salt.

Posted by: Dadrick | January 13, 2011 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Those of you trying to discredit CREW are out of luck. All of the violations it lists had been previously reported in other publications and by other groups (even Fox News mentions them missing the swearing in and then voting, though it unsurprisingly did leave out the donations bit). CREW is merely the first ones to request an actual ethics hearing, though other groups includng the Democratic caucus of the House have been tossing around the same idea since this story was first reported the day after it happened.

Posted by: schnauzer21 | January 13, 2011 9:12 AM | Report abuse

I find it ironic that someone who calls CREW a left-wing hate group signs in as fuobama.
And to the person who says CREW is funded by George Soros (a great American, by the way) and that we should "consider the source," the source of my knowledge of this is the Washington Post.

Posted by: DKB755 | January 13, 2011 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Hmm. You could have said "my bad" and made this go away. But instead, why not lie your @ss off and just HOPE it goes away?

With this kind of leadership, I'm sure you'll get this thing turned around in no time.

Posted by: Godfather_of_Goals | January 13, 2011 8:11 AM | Report abuse


That group filing the lawsuit, CREW, is a Soros-funded group.

Consider the source.

Posted by: janet8 | January 13, 2011 8:08 AM | Report abuse

The WP forgot one important fact - CREW is a left wing hate group - so take whatever they say with a grain of salt

Posted by: fuobama | January 13, 2011 7:56 AM | Report abuse

The WP forgot one importan fact - CREW is a left wing hate group - so take whatever they say with a grain of salt

Posted by: fuobama | January 13, 2011 7:56 AM | Report abuse

Both these Congressmen who felt the fundraiser was more important than taking their Oath, shows that they do not care about their Oath and should resign. Breaking the Law on your first day also shows no regard for Law. Step Down gentlemen.

Posted by: sumo1 | January 13, 2011 7:56 AM | Report abuse

I absolutely enjoy seeing Republicans squirm. Having said that, this whole issue is "much ado about nothing." Get a grip people.

Posted by: dougw3 | January 13, 2011 7:17 AM | Report abuse

Notice that both these Bozo's were Republicans. Republicans play by their own rules. House rules don't matter to them.

Posted by: bigmac1810 | January 13, 2011 7:00 AM | Report abuse

It didn't take this clown long to jump back onto the GOP Gravy Train with Mr. Pete "Earmarks for me are OK but nobody else" Sessions. Fitzpatrick, a veteran of wall-street defeated a military veteran to get this office. It shows you get what you pay for.

Posted by: JBGJRESQ | January 13, 2011 6:33 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: jkgjgjbliuo | January 12, 2011 11:27 PM | Report abuse

Since he was not sworn in, by what authority did he use congressional property to hold any event? He was not a member of congress but rather a visitor to the building. Not a federal employee. In fact, he failed to appear. If he were in the military, he'd be AWOL. If a regular employee, he'd be docked pay or fired. Maybe he should be fired.

Posted by: charlesvilagboy | January 12, 2011 10:56 PM | Report abuse

Since he was not sworn in, by what authority did he use congressional property to hold any event? He was not a member of congress but rather a visitor to the building. Not a federal employee. In fact, he failed to appear. If he were in the military, he'd be AWOL. If a regular employee, he'd be docked pay or fired. Maybe he should be fired.

Posted by: charlesvilagboy | January 12, 2011 10:55 PM | Report abuse

Since he was not sworn in, by what authority did he use congressional property to hold any event? He was not a member of congress but rather a visitor to the building. Not a federal employee. In fact, he failed to appear. If he were in the military, he'd be AWOL. If a regular employee, he'd be docked pay or fired. Maybe he should be fired.

Posted by: charlesvilagboy | January 12, 2011 10:52 PM | Report abuse

I suggest that any money raised for the re-election is insufficient to cover the adverse political adverts that will haunt Fitzpatrick when his re-election comes due, not a very bright person to have as a rep I would imagine.

Posted by: icurhuman2 | January 12, 2011 9:49 PM | Report abuse

Obviously it couldn't have been a fund raiser. Fund raisers are completly different, aren't they? Ooooh, maybe not!

Posted by: Skyline1 | January 12, 2011 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Guilty!!

Posted by: stuckintraffictoo | January 12, 2011 9:02 PM | Report abuse

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