The House Ethics Committee acknowledged Monday it is investigating Reps. Ben Ray Luján, John Conyers and House staffer Michael Collins.
The panel did not disclose details of its inquiry. Since the probe was referred to the House committee by the Office of Congressional Ethics, details of the OCE’s reports are expected to be made public August 9.
It is unclear if the inquiries are related, but all three cases were sent to the committee by OCE on May 11. The announcement kicks off a 45-day public comment period required by the panel after a referral is transmitted to the committee from OCE. The OCE is independent of Congress.
Luján is the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from New Mexico. Conyers, a Democrat from Michigan, is considered to be the dean of the House as the chamber’s longest continuously serving member.
Collins has served for many years as chief of staff for Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.
Joe Shoemaker, a spokesman and senior advisor to Lujan, said in a statement the inquiry relates to a sit-in on the House floor last year when Democrats protested the lack of gun legislation that has passed in the chamber.
"This announcement is the result of a frivolous complaint, filed by a highly partisan outside group about activities during the sit-in last year - a complaint that is without merit," Shoemaker wrote. "Congressman Luján is committed to abiding by House Rules, is confident he has done so in this case and looks forward to a timely resolution."
The most expensive House race in history has come to a close with the Associated Press calling Georgia's 6th District race for GOP candidate Karen Handel over Democrat Jon Ossoff on Tuesday evening.
Here are the last few days of the campaign in photos as captured by Roll Call's photographer:
SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — It’s Election Day in Georgia, so this column goes to print before we know the outcome of the 6th District special election to replace Dr. Tom Price in Congress. But whether Karen Handel, the Republican, pulls off a win or Jon Ossoff, the Democrat, manages an upset, it is well-understood here that the politics of this once solidly Republican district have changed, almost overnight.
The fact that Ossoff became so competitive, so quickly in this race was almost entirely because of Donald Trump. Trump was certainly the reason Democratic activists across the country pumped $20 million into a district where the biggest tourist attraction is a giant red chicken in front of a vintage KFC. Trump was also the reason countless Ossoff volunteers told me they were working for him “because at least it is something I could do” after Trump won in November.
Even local GOP operatives readily admitted that their problem was the president. And for the first time in nearly 40 years, Democrats in the district had a solution in the form of Ossoff, a 30-year-old former congressional staffer who may well be the prototype for a new kind of Southern Democrat to run against sitting Republicans in the New South.
While rural Democrats such as Sen. Sam Nunn and Gov. and Sen. Zell Miller once dominated Georgia and the South, Democrats were wiped out across the country in 2002 and beyond, including one of my old bosses, former Sen. Max Cleland.
I had also worked for Nunn before Cleland, and I watched over the course of my time in the Senate as Southern Democrats became fewer and fewer. People at home used to tell me they were “Sam Nunn Democrats,” meaning they were socially moderate, fiscally conservative and pro-defense. By the time Cleland lost his race in 2002, people at home wanted to know how I had become so wayward that I ended up “a liberal.”
My politics hadn’t changed, but the Democratic brand had. Instead of meaning a person was pro-business, pro-defense and socially moderate, the term “Southern Democrat” began to mean simply liberal, until it eventually meant something worse — nothing at all. I was so turned off by politics by the 2002 race, I decided to go into journalism, where at least no one would call me names. Oh, well.
As my first act of journalism, I wrote an entire book proposal titled, “Are the Yellow Dogs Done Barking?” Growing up in Georgia, people were known as “Yellow Dog Democrats,” meaning they would vote for anyone, even a yellow dog, if he had a “D” by his name on the ballot. My book would be an attempt to find out if Democrats in the South were dead as a governing party forever.
I never took my book proposal to agents in 2003 because the answer seemed so obvious at the time. Republicans had come to so dominate the South, it seemed impossible to envision a day when a Democrat could run even a competitive race statewide, or in the majority-white congressional districts that Republican legislatures had specifically drawn to stay in Republican hands for a generation.
But Ossoff’s campaign marks the first I’ve seen of what I’d call a New Southern Democrat, a different breed of Southern Democrat. But instead of a bird-hunting, Labrador version of the old Yellow Dog Democrat, Ossoff is more Labradoodle, a friendly companion well-suited to living in a (Southern) suburban condo. He’s a Yellow Dog Democrat for millennial voters, the multicultural, entrepreneurial voters who are pouring into Southern suburbs for jobs and schools and voting in a way their senior citizen neighbors never did.
Instead of running as a liberal or a conservative, Ossoff ran a different kind of campaign, tailored to the sort of majority-white, rapidly changing Southern suburban district Democrats will have to win in the future.
Instead of “Stronger Together,” the two words I heard Ossoff say most often on the campaign trail were “humble and kind.” Other than the fact that “Humble and Kind” is literally the title of a country song, it is also the message that resonated with Republican moms I met in the district, who were so bothered by President Trump’s tweeting, they compared their strategies of how they (successfully) kept their children from doing the same.
Ossoff was also very business-focused. His ads talked about how to make the Atlanta suburbs a tech corridor, and went on, at great length, about Washington wasting everybody’s money. Ironically, Ossoff didn’t hammer the president, nor did he talk about Russia. If the Hillary Clinton campaign could say the same, maybe they would all be in the White House instead of on LinkedIn.
Interestingly, Ossoff is just one of a slate of young, new Southern Democrats trying to find a way back into power. Teresa Tomlinson, the mayor of Columbus, Georgia, wrote an op-ed last week for The Daily Beast about being a “pragmatic progressive.” That answer to George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservative” respects government, works with Republicans, and, according to Tomlinson, “accepts science, technology and fact.” Snaps on that, House GOP.
One of the many criticisms of Ossoff that I’ve heard from Republican leaders in the 6th District is that he is “trying to trick people into thinking he’s a Republican.” They don’t believe what Ossoff is selling — that a person could really be pro-business and socially liberal at the same time. But that is precisely the appeal for the 10 percent of Republicans who voted for Ossoff in the April primary and put him within striking distance to win the seat Tuesday night.
To answer my question 15 years later, no, the Yellow Dogs aren’t done barking.
They don’t look like the old Southern Democrats, but the South doesn’t look the way it used to either. Whichever party figures that out will win in 2018 and beyond.
Roll Call columnist Patricia Murphy covers national politics for The Daily Beast. Previously, she was the Capitol Hill bureau chief for Politics Daily and founder and editor of Citizen Jane Politics. Follow her on Twitter @1PatriciaMurphy.
It’s not good to start your tenure in Congress with a misdemeanor assault charge, but that’s where Republican Greg Gianforte finds himself. It also doesn’t mean he is immediately and automatically vulnerable in 2018.
On May 25, Gianforte won a special election to replace Republican Ryan Zinke (who vacated his seat to become secretary of the Interior) in a race that received some national attention but went viral after an altercation between the candidate and a reporter resulted in assault body-slamming allegations and formal charges. Gianforte pleaded guilty on June 12 and narrowly avoided a few days in jail with 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management counseling.
While taking on an incumbent member of Congress with legal problems looks enticing (particularly since two-thirds of special election voters cast their ballots early, before the incident), it won’t be an easy road for Democrats in Montana next year.
Rob Quist’s 44 percent in the recent special election was the best showing of any Democratic U.S. House candidate in Montana since 2000. And Donald Trump just trounced Hillary Clinton in the state by 21 points last fall.
Democrats are still determined to field a credible challenger to Gianforte. The early speculation is focused on state Reps. Amanda Curtis and Kelly McCarthy, according to a June 2 piece by Robert Yoon for Inside Elections. Both legislators lost the 2017 nomination to Quist in a contest that was decided by local party members instead of in a primary. Curtis was also the 2014 nominee for U.S. Senate against then-Rep. Steve Daines, who won the seat 58 percent to 40 percent.
Other previous House hopefuls mentioned as possible 2018 contenders are John Lewis, a former aide to Sen. Max Baucus, who lost the seat to Republican Ryan Zinke in 2014, and Dan West, a former Capitol Hill staffer and Obama administration appointee at NASA, who also sought the 2017 nomination.
Democrats will need a solid candidate because the party can’t count on Gianforte’s assault charge overcoming the partisan lean of the state.
In April 2014, New York Republican Rep. Michael G. Grimm was indicted on 20 counts of fraud and conspiracy. He won re-election that fall, 55 percent to 42 percent, in the state’s 11th District, which President Barack Obama carried by 4 points in the previous election. Grimm resigned in January 2015 after his conviction.
Further back in August 2005, the FBI raided Louisiana Rep. William J. Jefferson’s home on suspicion of corruption. Agents found $90,000 in cash wrapped in aluminum foil in the Democrat’s freezer. But the congressman won re-election the following year, 57 percent to 43 percent over then-state Rep. Karen Carter, a fellow Democrat. It wasn’t until six months later that Jefferson was indicted on corruption charges. But he still won the Democratic renomination in 2008 before narrowly losing in the general election, 49.6 percent to 46.8 percent to Republican Ahn “Joseph” Cao.
There is still time for the dust to settle in Montana and for there to be more clarity about the national political climate, but Gianforte will start his 2018 re-election race with an advantage. The initial Inside Elections race rating in Montana’s at-large district is Leans Republican.