Group files complaint in swearing-in snafu

Jan. 13, 2011 at 10:12 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- An ethics watchdog group in Washington filed a formal complaint against two House Republicans who missed last week's swearing-in ceremony and then voted anyway.

In its complaint filed Wednesday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said Reps. Pete Sessions of Texas and Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania violated the Constitution, the law and House rules by "acting as House members despite failing to be sworn in" and that Fitzpatrick "violated federal law and House rules by holding a fundraiser" in the Capitol, The Washington Post reported.

Fitzpatrick and Sessions were attending a reception for Fitzpatrick in the Capitol Visitors Center while the rest of the 112th Congress was being sworn in Jan. 5. Fitzpatrick said the reception wasn't a fundraiser because it was open to anyone wanting to attend and a $30 fee was meant to cover transportation costs from the lawmaker's district to Washington.

CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan told the Post the good-government organization thought otherwise.

"The invitation lists a $30 per-person cost, permits a donor to select a specified number of tickets, and lists contribution amounts of $30, $60, $90, $120, as well as others," Sloan said. "Furthermore, the invitation also instructs individuals who prefer to donate by check to make checks payable to Fitzpatrick for Congress."

A Fitzpatrick spokesman said the Pennsylvania Republican welcomes the review.

"The reception held last week in the Capitol Visitors Center was not a fundraiser," Fitzpatrick spokesperson Darren Smith said. "It was open and free to all comers and held in compliance with the House Ethics Manual."

Sessions spokeswoman Torrie Miller said the Texas Republican "and the House have taken the actions necessary to rectify the error, and he has formally apologized to his colleagues."

Sessions and Fitzpatrick both cast votes Wednesday and Thursday despite missing the general swearing-in ceremony. Sessions also presided over a portion of a Rules Committee hearing on a measure seeking to repeal the healthcare law.

The House eventually passed a resolution that invalidated votes Sessions and Fitzpatrick cast but said other actions they took would count as if they were sworn in on the floor.

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