According to a nonpartisan watchdog group, two Democratic senators were the “top ethics violators of 2018” because they solicited donations by trumpeting their antagonism to Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation during the hearings to confirm him. Those two senators were — drum roll — Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA).
In October, The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) filed a complaint with the Senate Select Committee on Ethics targeting the two senators. The complaint stated:
Senators Warren and Harris sent campaign fundraising emails based upon their official actions during the confirmation process and upcoming vote of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Senator Warren’s fundraising email stated her position on the ongoing hearing and “demand to delay the confirmation vote.” The email then states: “Elizabeth Warren is running for reelection in 2018 . . DONATE NOW.” Senator Harris sent numerous emails fundraising based upon her official duties. For instance, one of Harris’s fundraising emails stated she “questioned Judge Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings” and indicates her position on the confirmation. Then she requested a contribution with a “CONTRIBUTE” button. Both Senators’ emails were sent during the confirmation process and before the Senators were to vote, and their requested campaign donations were intertwined with their official duties as Senators.
The complaint added:
Senate Ethics Rules prohibit Senators from soliciting campaign contributions based upon any action taken in their official capacity. By linking a promise of official action with campaign contributions, a Senator violates a “basic principle” of Senate Ethics that guards against conflicts of interest. The Senate Ethics Manual is clear that a Senator “should never use the prestige or influence of a position in the Senate for personal gain . . . . This provision was intended ‘as a broad prohibition against members, officers or employees deriving financial benefit, directly or indirectly, from the use of their official position.’” Moreover, Senators are to act based upon merit, not on partisan affiliation or for campaign contributions.
As National Review noted, “Bottom of FormWarren, meanwhile, called the ethics complaint ‘frivolous’ when informed of the filing during a session on the Senate floor and later called FACT ‘one of these shadowy dark money groups’ in comments to reporters.”
As The Daily Wire reported at the beginning of November, Warren only learned of the ethics complaint against her when she was informed by her Republican challenger Geoff Diehl in a debate. After Diehl introduced the subject, a moderator pursued the issue, asking, "The fundraising while the vote was being taken on the Kavanaugh hearing — did you or did you not do that?" Warren answered, "Actually, I don’t know.” Another moderator pressed, "Yes, an ethics complaint has been filed about a fundraising email," prompting Warren to reply, "Then, then I will, I will check into it — but I don’t know.”
FACT has exhibited its non-partisan perspective before, having cited Republican speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as some of the “top ethics violators of 2018” because they did not pursue allegations of the sexual harassment of congressional staffers and interns with enough vigor.