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Paul Ryan Could Be Investigated For ‘Corrupt’ Activity During Trump’s State of The Union

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Last week, the nation was subjected to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. But aspects of that speech may have violated Congressional rules — and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan could be in trouble for the president’s actions.

Trump used the speech as a means to try and rile up his base, and to get them to donate campaign funds during the address. Anyone who donated to Trump would see their name scroll across the bottom of a livestream broadcast of the speech. That move was a “disgraceful degradation by Trump of the presidency and our public institutions,” according to  Robert Weissman, president of the group Public Citizen.

Others agreed. “It is a no class, money-grubbing misuse of the State of the Union address that is way beneath the dignity of the presidency and the occasion,” said Fred Wertheimer, who heads the organization Democracy 21.

Besides being distasteful, Trump’s misuse of the House floor may actually have been against the rules of that chamber. Weissman’s group is challenging Ryan, in his capacity as speaker, for violating what is called Rule V of the House of Representatives. That rule makes it quite clear that any coverage of proceedings occurring on the House floor “may not be used for any partisan political campaign purpose.”

Even though it was a State of the Union address, technically Trump is an invited guest to the chamber in which he spoke — and thus, the responsibility rests with Speaker Ryan. Public Citizen is urging the “House Ethics Committee and the Office of Congressional Ethics [to] investigate whether Speaker Paul Ryan or the Speaker’s designee failed to fulfill his responsibilities in violation of Rule V of the House rules,” according to its official complaint.

“This blatant selling of the presidency also appears to violate rules, which is why we are filing today’s complaint. Putting donors’ names on the screen essentially says, ‘This presidency is brought to you by Goldman Sachs, Dow Chemical, Koch Industries and Murray Energy.’”

“Never before has the State of the Union address been used for such blatant campaign purposes, but on Tuesday night, the address was livestreamed specifically for campaign fundraising by the Trump campaign committee,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen. “A speech intended to lay out the policy agenda for the nation has been denigrated into a simple campaign fundraiser.”

“This inappropriate use of the State of the Union to advertise campaign access is the opposite of the ‘drain the swamp’ presidency on which Trump based his campaign,” said Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs for Public Citizen. “This administration has no shame. This latest outrage underscores the need for national reform to our system of moneyed politics.”

Trump was elected on the promise that he’d “drain the swamp.” Many Americans were skeptical of his ability to do so, and indeed that skepticism was warranted, on this issue and myriad others. Trump didn’t drain the swamp — he became the swamp, and more importantly, he embraced it.

The House rules set in place were meant to keep “swamp creatures” like Trump from abusing sacred institutions like Congress and the State of the Union for their monetary interests. In that respect, Trump violated the rules, and Ryan was complicit in allowing the president’s campaign committee to raise funds in an inappropriate manner.


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