Ethics panel sends warning on charities

The House Ethics Committee reminded members Friday that House rules bar lawmakers from using official resources to solicit donations for private charities that are helping the victims of the Philippines typhoon.  

The Ethics Committee and the House Administration Committee circulated a letter to members giving them a list of official government websites to which members can direct their constituents instead. 

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“Rules of the House prohibit referrals to organizations or links to sites whose primary purpose is the solicitation of goods, funds, or services on behalf of individuals or organizations,” the memo reads. 

The memo listed links to the Department of State, United Nations, U.S Agency for International Development and the U.S. embassy in the country, among others. 

The memo states that members are allowed to personally solicit donations for certain charitable groups like the Red Cross. But they cannot use official government resources — including staff time or official email, telephone or mailing lists — to do so. 

“We understand the good intentions of those making such inquiries, but the rules of the House preclude Members from using official resources for any purpose other than in support of the conduct of the Member's official and representational duties on behalf of the district the Member currently represents,” the memo reads. 

The typhoon that struck the island nation over the weekend has killed more than 3,000 people so far and left thousands missing. 

President Obama announced Thursday at a press conference the aircraft carrier U.S.S. George Washington and other Navy ships have arrived in the country to provide assistance. He directed people to go to the White House website that provides links to aid groups. 

“More help is on the way. America’s strength, of course has always been more than just about what our government can do; it’s also about what our citizens can do. It’s about the bigheartedness of the American people when they see other folks in trouble,” he said.