“As detailed in the radio ad, Congressman Landry was Sen. Vitter’s guest at the debt forum. Congressman Landry is proud to have represented his constituents and, like Sen. Vitter, vote against the Washington debt deal and disastrous Super Committee,” Communications Director Millard Mulé said in an email.
The House Administration Committee, the franking commission and the House Ethics Committee all provide guidance about when and where Members can use official funds.
The Members’ Congressional Handbook, for example, states that a lawmaker can be reimbursed for the costs associated with joint town hall meetings they co-host with a home-state Senator, but “the meeting must take place within the House Members’ district.” Vitter’s office at the time of the forums described Landry’s role as co-host — a characterization that Landry’s office now disputes.
The Members’ handbook also requires that lawmakers use official funds only to advertise the “notice of personal appearance at an official event, which the Member sponsors and hosts in support of the conduct of the Member’s official and representational duties to the district from which he or she is elected.”
Landry’s office said the radio spots weren’t ads but a public notification of the lawmaker’s schedule — a permissible use of House funds, a House Administration representative confirmed.
“Within the rules and guidelines put forth by the franking commission, the commission approved the radio advertisement that was run to inform our constituents of the event,” Landry Chief of Staff Phillip Joffrion said.
Public Citizen said the explanations don’t pass muster.
“When you focus on one event it’s an ad for the event, it’s not publishing a schedule. Had he distributed an actual schedule, he might have had a little bit of an argument, although that’s still an awfully expensive waste of taxpayer dollars,” Holman said.