Ethics complaints filed against South Carolina's Graham after he sought donations in Senate building

©The State (Columbia, S.C.)

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Democratic Party leaders say they have filed an ethics complaint against Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham after he promoted his campaign website this week in a Senate office building saying he needed to close a fundraising gap.

It was one of two complaints filed against Graham with the Senate Ethics Committee on Thursday, according to groups that filed them. The second came from the Washington, D.C., based Campaign Legal Center.

On Wednesday, Graham responded to a reporter’s question about how Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing would help in his fundraising in his reelection battle against Democrat Jaime Harrison.

“I don’t know how much it affected fundraising today, but if you want to help me close the gap — LindseyGraham.com — a little bit goes a long way,” Graham said.

Federal law prohibits soliciting or receiving campaign contributions on federal property.

Graham went on to congratulate Harrison for his third quarter haul of $57 million, which was an all-time record for a Senate candidate. Graham raised a Republican Senate record of $28 million in the third quarter.

“I think the contest in South Carolina has taken on a national profile,” Graham said. “What has happened in my case is I stood up for (Justice Brett) Kavanaugh and that made some people upset on the left, and I have been helping President Trump. But I trust the people of South Carolina to get it right. The state is not for sale, and I feel good about my campaign.”

Graham’s office said the senior senator was just answering a question about the campaign.

“(We’re) confident any reasonable person will see that any possible violation was unintentional and does not represent a pattern of behavior,” Graham spokesperson Kevin Bishop said.

In a news release announcing the ethics complaint, SCDP Chairman Trav Robertson said Graham should have known better.

“Sen. Graham’s behavior is completely unbecoming of a U.S. senator,” Robertson said. “The people of South Carolina deserve better than Lindsey Graham’s despicable violations of the law and Senate ethics rules.”

Kedric Payne, general counsel and the senior director of ethics for the Campaign Legal Center, said the Ethics Committee should carry out an investigation.

“It is a clear violation of the rules and there are no exceptions.”

Ultimately if the Ethics Committee finds wrongdoing, Payne expects the committee to reprimand Graham because it appears to be a lone violation.

“If the Ethics Committee fails to hold the senator accountable it will establish a dangerous precedent that solicitations of campaign contributions can be made in federal buildings,” CLC spokesperson Tracy King said in an email to The State.

A call to the Senate Ethics Committee was not returned Thursday.

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©2020 The State (Columbia, S.C.)