Democratic senator may have broken fundraising rules in MSNBC interview

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
Font Size:

A Democratic lawmaker may have violated prohibitions against soliciting campaign contributions on government property while appearing on MSNBC on Monday night.

“I’m asking regular folks to be my super PAC,” Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill said on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” from inside the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building while discussing how super PACs are targeting her.

But what could be problematic for the senator is that she also reminded MSNBC’s viewers that “on ClaireMcCaskill.com, people can give 25 bucks and, if we get a lot of those, we will have our own super PAC, and that’s the kind of PAC that should be super, made up of regular people giving small amounts.”

If the Senate Ethics Committee would deem these comments a campaign activity, McCaskill could be in hot water. Rules prohibit campaign activity and the solicitation of campaign funds in government office buildings.

“Senate members and staff may not receive or solicit campaign contributions in any federal building,” according to the Senate Ethics Committee website, which also declares: “No Campaign Activity in a Federal Building.”

It is against the law to fundraise on government property.

Reached on Monday evening, McCaskill spokesman John LaBombard forwarded The Daily Caller to the Missouri Democratic Party.

In a statement to TheDC, state party spokeswoman Caitlin Legacki said: “At no point in this interview did Claire solicit any campaign contributions, and this effort to manipulate her words is yet another desperate attack from Washington Republicans.”

“It’s hard to talk about the evils of anonymous Super PAC influence on our elections without describing the alternative in an understandable, hypothetical way like Claire did tonight,” Legacki added.

“Claire McCaskill continues to fight against the Washington special interests,” she said. “Those of her like mind can fight the special interest SuperPACs as well by giving smaller contributions directly to campaigns. That is a fact.”

A story in the Washington Post on Sunday notes how McCaskill has been “targeting the super PACs” and “devoted her first campaign ad for re-election to the argument that out-of-state special interests are trying to knock her out of the Senate in November.”

The campaign of a GOP rival responded, saying, “It is troubling that Sen. McCaskill would violate longstanding ethics standards in such a cavalier fashion and just shows that she is willing to do anything to get re-elected.”

“Missourians should be outraged at Sen. McCaskill’s behavior and demand that she immediately apologize and accept whatever reprimand that is required by the Senate,” said Todd Abrajano, a spokesman for John Brunner’s campaign.

The issue of whether a lawmaker has crossed the line of asking for campaign contributions while speaking to the press on government property has been raised before.

Earlier this year, CNN questioned whether House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi violated ethics rules by saying in a press conference that, “we’re asking people to contribute to us if they want to elect more reformers to Congress so we can do away with super PACs.”

Her spokesman told CNN that Pelosi was not engaged in campaign activity but was rather describing what she does.

Follow Alex on Twitter