Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison (DFL-CD5) has been accused of violating a rule that prohibits members of Congress from using social media accounts to promote their candidacy for positions of leadership that they are seeking. Ellison is currently in the running for chairperson of the Democratic National Committee.
According to reports from The Washington Free Beacon, Ellison had been using his verified Twitter account to campaign for DNC chair, which sources argue is in violation of rules stating that official social media accounts can not be used for campaign purposes.
Ellison’s office says that the congressman does not have an official presence on Twitter and used his personal Twitter account to send out tweets regarding his candidacy for DNC chair. However, Ellison’s personal account links to his official congressional website. Tweets sent from this account have been linked to Ellison’s official congressional site, thereby blurring the lines between Ellison’s official and personal social media accounts.
The Washington Free Beacon said that congressional insiders claim that Ellison’s tweets are a “clear-cut violation of House rules” that govern social media use.
One congressional insider told the Free Beacon, “This is a pretty clear-cut violation of House rules. He’s using his official Twitter account to promote his bid for a political leadership position on a website that solicits donations and is paid for by his campaign. I suppose it’s only appropriate that the leading candidate to run a corrupt organization like the DNC is wrongly using taxpayer dollars to fund his candidacy.”
Ellison sent out one tweet on December 1st which contains a direct link to his DNC campaign page, which also includes a huge “donate” button to solicit for contributions to his campaign:
My plan for the DNC:https://t.co/stLKdNIOIA
— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) December 1, 2016
The Committee on House Administration authored a “Member’s Congressional Handbook” that says that members of congress may not use their official online presence to campaign for political office or to disseminate campaign information. The reports states that “official websites may not be used for campaign or personal purposes; may not generate, circulate, or otherwise encourage petitions; may not include advertisements or any private person or entity or imply government endorsement of a product or service; may not include grassroots lobbying; and must be in compliance with federal law and House rules and regulations applicable to official communications.”
Lawmakers, are however, permitted to have social media accounts for personal purposes according to the report: “Members are free to maintain non-official social media accounts, such as campaign or personal accounts. Such accounts are not subject to House rules or regulations regarding the official social media accounts. These non-official accounts may not utilize official resources. Likewise, the Members’ Congressional Handbook also provides that non-official resources such as campaign funds may not be used to pay for official social media accounts.”
The Free Beacon reached out to Ellison’s Washington D.C. office and was told by the representative answering the phone that she “ethically cannot discuss” Ellison’s DNC chair candidacy due to rules preventing official offices from being used for campaign purposes. The Free Beacon told Ellison’s representative that this was the issue they were inquiring about and the representative referred them to a member of Ellison’s press staff, who said that Ellison did not violate any rules because he uses this Twitter account in a personal rather than an official capacity.
Ellison could easily rectify the situation by creating a new Twitter account that clearly states that it is for official purposes only. However, by doing so, Ellison would essentially be admitting that he violated House rules, according to Red State.