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 BarlettaPoll: Democrats hold big leads in Pennsylvania Senate, governor races Obama to hit campaign trail in Pa. for gubernatorial, Senate candidates Poll: Pennsylvania Democrats surging with double-digit leads 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.

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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 CaseyPoll: Democrats hold big leads in Pennsylvania Senate, governor races The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify Trump: 'Good news' that Obama is campaigning again 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 GraysonFlorida's Darren Soto fends off Dem challenge from Alan Grayson Live results: Arizona and Florida hold primaries The Hill's Morning Report: Frustration mounts as Republicans blow up tax message 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.