Pennsylania Dems file ethics complaint against Rep. Barletta

Pennsylania Dems file ethics complaint against Rep. Barletta
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The Pennsylvania Democratic Party has filed a complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics alleging that Rep. Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James BarlettaElection Countdown: Latest on the 2018 Senate money race | Red-state Dems feeling the heat over Kavanaugh | Dem doubts about Warren | Ocasio-Cortez to visit Capitol Hill | Why Puerto Ricans in Florida could swing Senate race Midterm turnout surges for both parties Poll: Incumbent Dem leads Pennsylvania Senate race by 15 MORE (R-Pa.) misused official resources while discussing his possible Senate campaign.

Barletta told WBRE-TV, a local NBC affiliate, on Monday during an interview in his district office that “I’ve been looking at it very seriously” and would make an announcement in “a couple weeks” about his decision.

The official House seal can be seen in the background behind Barletta during the interview.

In a complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics, Pennsylvania Democratic Party spokesman Max Steele wrote that Barletta may have violated federal law and House rules prohibiting the use of official congressional resources for campaign purposes.

“Rep. Barletta’s unapologetic discussion of his Senate run in significant detail while in his congressional office is a direct affront to House Rules,” Steele wrote.

John Brabender, a Barletta campaign adviser, said Thursday that the WBRE interview was slated to be about healthcare policy. But Brabender said the WBRE reporter brought up the possible Senate run after asking about the originally planned topic.

Brabender dismissed the notion that Barletta had broken rules by answering the reporter’s questions and said the Democrats’ complaint has “shown their hand that they are remarkably scared” of a run against incumbent Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyHistory argues for Democratic Senate gains Overnight Health Care: Trump officials explore importing prescription drugs | Key ObamaCare, drug pricing regs under review | GOP looks to blunt attacks on rising premiums | Merck to lower some drug prices Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions MORE (D-Pa.).

The Office of Congressional Ethics can choose to review complaints filed by members of the public. If it finds substantial reason to believe a lawmaker may have violated House rules, it then makes a recommendation to the House Ethics Committee to investigate the allegations further. Only the House Ethics Committee has the power to hand down punishment.

Barletta, an illegal immigration hawk, was one of the first GOP lawmakers to endorse Trump during the 2016 campaign. He served on the Trump transition team and was floated as a possible candidate to lead the Transportation or Labor departments but opted to stay in Congress.

Lawmakers have previously been accused of violating ethics rules by discussing campaigns in interviews that took place in their congressional offices.

In a referral made to the Ethics Committee in 2016, the Office of Congressional Ethics found “substantial reason to believe” that former Rep. Alan GraysonAlan Mark GraysonThe Hill's Morning Report: Frustration mounts as Republicans blow up tax message Former Dem Rep. Alan Grayson to challenge for old House seat PolitiFact cancels Alan Grayson hire after backlash MORE (D-Fla.) may have violated rules by participating in interviews from his office that primarily focused on his ultimately unsuccessful Senate campaign.

The Ethics Committee never issued a final conclusion on Grayson's case before his House term concluded at the end of last year.