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EXCLUSIVE: Dem May Have ‘Violated’ House Rules After Appearing In TV Ads, Watchdog Alleges

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Gabe Kaminsky Investigative Reporter
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Democratic Pennsylvania Rep. Matt Cartwright may have “violated” congressional rules for appearing in the TV ads of a top donor’s law firm, a watchdog alleged in a complaint obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Cartwright praised law firm Parker Waichman and its partner Jerry Parker in July TV ads that have since been pulled by the firm, Axios reported Thursday. Cartwright’s appearance in the ads may violate ethics rules because he gave his “endorsement” of Parker and used House resources to “support” the firm, watchdog Functional Government Initiative (FGI) wrote in a complaint Monday to the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). (EXCLUSIVE: Watchdog Demands Investigation Into Top Biden EPA Official)

In the TV ads filmed in Cartwright’s office, the congressman said he “owe[s] Jerry Parker a great debt of gratitude” for telling him about chemical contamination of water at Marine Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, Axios reported. Cartwright discussed a bill he introduced called the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, which lets military veterans impacted by the contamination sue the government for damages.

President Joe Biden signed the legislation into law on Aug. 11. It could benefit Parker Waichman, since the firm works on toxic tort litigation cases, FGI said in its complaint.

“Rep. Cartwright broke about every rule in the ethics book when he appeared in that commercial,” Pete McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, told the DCNF. “This is ethics dysfunction at its finest and FGI intends to point it out.”

Members are not supposed to “carry out expressions or symbols that might improperly indicate official sponsorship or endorsement,” according to the House ethics manual. Members also should not use “House resources to support unofficial undertakings” that indicate “support of business endeavors,” the manual says.

(Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Parker and his wife in the last four election cycles have donated the legal maximum, which is currently $2,900 per election and was lower prior to Cartwright’s campaign, federal records show. The donations add up to $54,500 from 2012 to 2021.

On Aug. 9, Cartwright sent a cease-and-desist to Parker Waichman, claiming it gave no permission for them to use his “name or likeness” in the ads. Parker apologized in a letter to Cartwright on Aug. 24, telling the congressman his “marketing team” made an “overreach” and that the ads have been removed from TV and the firm’s website.

A Cartwright spokesperson told Axios he did not know the footage was being used for “commercial purposes” and thought it was “celebratory” upon learning the contamination bill would pass.

“Jerry and Matt, who were old friends for many years, got together to celebrate what they anticipated was a signing of a bill they’ve been working on for 10 years,” a spokesman for the law firm told the DCNF.

It is unclear who shot the footage at Cartwright’s office and whether they were employed by Parker Waichman. The law firm spokesman told the DCNF he is unsure.

“I don’t think it was a law firm employee,” said the spokesman. “I think it was one of his buddies. I wasn’t there. I don’t know. I’m not sure.”

OCE declined to comment. Cartwright’s office did not respond, nor did Parker.

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