On Thursday, the Senate Ethics Committee issued a Public Letter of Admonition to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for his repeated violations of Senate Rules and “related standards of conduct.” These violations include soliciting campaign contributions in a federal building on more than one occasion in a manner that “undermines the public’s trust in the United States Senate.”
Last year, the Committee launched an investigation following a formal complaint accusing Graham of soliciting campaign donations for Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker during a media interview conducted in the Russell Senate Office Building on November 30, 2022.
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The Committee found that Graham directly solicited contributions for Walker’s campaign committee five times during the interview, marking a repeat violation of Senate standards of conduct.
Graham’s prior violation occurred on October 14, 2020, when he directly solicited campaign contributions for his campaign committee in response to a reporter’s question during an unplanned media interview in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. The Committee concluded that this conduct violated Senate standards of conduct. Still, it dismissed the complaint in March 2021 due to mitigating factors, deeming the violation “inadvertent, technical, or otherwise of a de minimis nature.”
The Committee reminded Graham that U.S. senators’ ethical standards are broader and distinct from criminal law. The specific prohibition on campaign solicitation in federal buildings and restrictions on using official resources for campaign activities were found to have been clear and consistent throughout Graham’s Senate service.
The Committee emphasized that the public must feel confident that members use public resources only for official actions in the best interests of the United States and not for partisan political activities. By soliciting campaign funds in a federal building, despite being warned, Graham’s actions failed to uphold this standard. They resulted in harm to the public trust and confidence in Congress.
Last year, President Donald Trump labeled Graham a “RINO” (Republican In Name Only) after Graham criticized Trump’s promise to pardon those convicted of crimes related to the January 6, 2021, Capitol protests, should he win the 2024 presidential election. At that time, Trump claimed that the January 6 defendants were being treated unfairly and vowed to issue pardons if necessary. However, Graham expressed concerns on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” stating that pardoning these individuals could lead to violent backlash from fringe groups and send a message that “defiling the Capitol” is acceptable.
Graham was not alone in his opposition, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also disapproved of shortening sentences for those who pleaded guilty. Trump argued that the defendants were being “persecuted,” citing poor living conditions in jails and denial of bail as evidence.