One story from this first week of the 112th Congress bears special mention at Poliglot.
Pennsylvania Republican Mike Fitzpatrick defeated Democrat Patrick Murphy in their contest to represent Pennsylvania’s eighth congressional district this past November. Murphy, of course, led the House effort in the 111th Congress to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” so his loss was a disappointment for many — though not all — groups and individuals fighting for repeal.
On Wednesday, Jan. 5, though, when the rest of the House was being sworn in, Fitzpatrick and another Republican — Pete Sessions of Texas — “skipped the House swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday to attend a gathering of Fitzpatrick supporters elsewhere in the Capitol,” according to a report from Kathleen Hennessey at the Los Angeles Times. She continued to report that “Sessions and Fitzpatrick watched the ceremony on a television from the party, they said, and spoke the oath to the tube.”
They then went on to cast votes as members, despite, as Hennessey reported, that “the Constitution requires all members to swear an oath before taking office” and “House rules require that the oath to be taken within proximity of the speaker.”
When the error was realized, Fitzpatrick and Sessions — who serves as the National Republican Campaign Committee chair — were sworn in by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Jan. 6. Today, the House also voted to void the votes cast by Fitzpatrick and Sessions prior to their being properly sworn in.
As Todd Gillman at the Dallas Morning News reports, however, “campaign watchdogs and Democrats said questions persist as to whether the duo violated House rules that ban the use of congressional facilities for campaign events.“
The Fitpatrick event, which cost supporters $30 according to the website set up by Campaign Financial Services for the event, took place at the Capitol Visitors Center. Today, a message at the event page from Fitzpatrick says, “Thanks to all who attended Wednesday’s swearing in ceremony. It was a memorable experience for all of us.”
Public Campaign Action Fund is one of the campaign finance watchdogs expressing concerning about the event.
Public Campaign’s communications director, Adam Smith, told Metro Weekly, that his group wanted to know more about the specifics of whether Fitzpatrick raised “campaign money for the campaign committee on Capitol grounds.”
He also noted what he viewed as the contrast between Murphy — who was a co-sponsor of the DISCLOSE Act (Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections Act) — and Fitzpatrick.
“Rep. Patrick Murphy time and time again did what he believed was best for his district, no matter the political consequences. His replacement, Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, clearly missed that lesson when he chose to attend a fundraiser instead of taking his oath of office,” Smith said. “I’m not sure ‘tone deaf’ would begin to accurately describe his actions on Wednesday.”
A message seeking comment was left with Fitzpatrick’s office.
[Image: The "ticket" on the Campaign Financial Services website for the Fitpatrick event that took place on Jan. 5.]