Rep. Darrell Issa's name got inadvertently hijacked on Thursday by an outside group wanting to use the California Republican's cache to boost fundraising numbers.
Had Issa, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sanctioned the email from the Armed Forces Foundation, it could have run afoul of House ethics rules, in part because it appeared to have been written on official congressional letterhead. The Ethics Committee doesn't allow members to solicit funds for private organizations using congressional resources lest it suggest a conflict of interest.
Such concerns predate this week's flub, though, by at least 50 years. That was when then-Rep. Bob Taft Jr., R-Ohio, introduced legislation to bar "improper" use of congressional stationery.
His bill would have actually imposed fines of up to $500, imprisonment for up to six months, or both, for offenders — likely ex-lawmakers — who solicited paid services with the government via stationery labeled "Congress of the United States," "House of Representatives" or "Senate of the United States."
"It seems to me that this infers a possibility of influence which an ex-congressman or senator should not use," Taft said at the time, while also suggesting that he knew for a fact that this practice took place.
It seemed that Taft was perpetually concerned about ethical misconduct among his colleagues. According to Roll Call's Nov. 27, 1963, edition, he also introduced legislation that would have required the House Ethics Committee, then called the Committee on Standards, "to receive in confidence complete financial statements from every Member of Congress."
Lawmakers must now file yearly financial disclosures which, of course, provide the fodder for Roll Call's annual roundup of the 50 Richest Members of Congress.