Polis Cleared by House Ethics Committee
The House Ethics Committee on Monday announced it will not look further into allegations that Rep. Jared Polis used official resources to promote two businesses.
In 2015, Riot Games, the maker of an online video game “League of Legends” that Polis has played for years, contacted the Colorado Democrat to appear in a video promoting the game as part of a series of “human interest” stories to “capture and share more positive, human stories of fun, talented, competitive and responsible individuals who also just happen to be part of our player base,” according to the Ethics Committee release.
Some of the video was shot in Polis’ Longworth office and as he walked through the Capitol. Another portion of the video highlighted Polis’ on the House floor and in committee discussing the Stop Online Piracy Act and Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act.
Polis viewed his participation as part of his “representational duties” and that it was a way to interact with constituents who played the game, according to the Ethics Committee release.
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The second incident involved Polis’ participation in a fashion event by a clothing designer and retailer from his district, Ninox, which offered to give him a makeover in response to a 2014 GQ story that said Polis had the “worst congressional style ever.” Photos of Polis trying on clothes were spread on social media, including his office’s accounts.
Polis, again, viewed the event as part of his “representational duties” — that it was “for a business in his district and stated that he did not tell anyone to buy or purchase a product,” according to the Ethics Committee release.
The Colorado Democrat’s case was referred to the Ethics Committee from the Office of Congressional Ethics, which said there was substantial reason to believe Polis may have run afoul of federal law and House rules. But after looking into the matters further, the Ethics committee determined that Polis did not violate any ethics rules or laws and considered the matter closed.
Since existing statutes don’t provide a “bright line” for members acting in an official capacity in relation to business entities, the Ethics Committee argued that members have some discretion, and that Polis and his staff did not believe — based on what they knew at the time — his participation in either event would be used as an advertisement for the companies or to promote any product.
“While it does appear that both the Riot Games video and the Ninox clothing event were intended, at least in part, to promote the businesses, this is true in virtually every instance in which a business participates in or arranges an event with a Member,” according to the committee’s report. “Further, the video and clothing event also had clear and substantial non-commercial, representational, purposes.”
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