The House Committee on Ethics has announced an investigative subcommittee probe into allegations against Representative Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D-FL). The move comes after a referral from the Office of Congressional Ethics and follows an earlier extension of the inquiry in November.
The investigative subcommittee is tasked with determining whether Cherfilus-McCormick violated the Code of Official Conduct or any law, rule, regulation, or other applicable standards of conduct in her duties or responsibilities.
The allegations include violations of campaign finance laws and regulations during her 2022 special election and 2022 re-election campaigns, failure to properly disclose required information on statements filed with the House, and/or accepting voluntary services for official work from an individual not employed in her congressional office.
The subcommittee is a bipartisan group of both Republicans and Democrats.
“As the Ethics Committee said in its statement, the mere fact of establishing an investigative subcommittee does not itself indicate that any violation occurred,” said spokesperson Jonathan Levin. “Regardless, the Congresswoman takes these matters seriously and is working to resolve them.”
Inside Elections reported:
But three commercials that aired earlier this month in South Florida ended with slightly different disclaimer: “Paid for with official funds from the office of Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick.”
Even though it’s rare, members of Congress are allowed to use official funds for TV ads, as long as they cover official business and steer clear of campaign content. But Cherfilus-McCormick, a new representative from Florida’s 20th District, appears to be blurring those lines….
But these aren’t actually campaign ads. They’re commercials produced and paid for by Cherfilus-McCormick’s taxpayer-funded congressional office, not her campaign committee.
A review of House ethics rules suggests Cherfilus-McCormick is operating in a significant gray area when it comes to how members can and cannot spend official funds. And her past financial filings show that it’s not the first time the congresswoman has come under scrutiny for her use of taxpayer dollars while seeking office.
Members of Congress are strictly prohibited from using taxpayer dollars for their political campaigns. This is governed by several laws and regulations, chief among them being the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). The act specifically regulates the financing of federal election campaigns, including Congressional races, mandating that campaign funds be raised separately from personal or taxpayer funds.
Additionally, there is a stringent ‘Personal Use Rule’ in place, which forbids members of Congress from using campaign funds for personal expenses. These regulations are designed to maintain a clear separation between public funds and campaign financing, ensuring that taxpayer money is not diverted to political campaign activities.
Cherfilus-McCormick’s political journey includes a closely contested race. In 2021, she was involved in a machine recount at the Voting Equipment Center in Lauderhill, Florida, where only a few votes separated her from her opponent, Dale Holness. The recount was for determining the Democratic candidate for the general election for the U.S. House seat previously held by Alcee Hastings. After an intensely competitive and closely contested race, she emerged as the victor by a margin of just five votes.