Tips from the Ethics Committee: How Not to Fleece Taxpayers this Election Season

The leaders of the House Ethics Committee sent around a 16-page packet of tips on how members of Congress and their staff can stay out of trouble while campaigning for re-election.

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Every few months (or weeks or days) a member of Congress is implicated in some sort of ethical wrongdoing. Most often, this involves shady campaign practices, such as using the taxpayers' money to keep themselves in office for another term.

This is not good for the member of Congress, certainly, but nor is it good for the deeply unpopular institution as a whole.

So with the 2014 campaign kicking into high gear, the leaders of the House Committee on Standards and Ethics — Chairman Michael Conaway (R-Tex.), and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), the top Democrat — are helpfully offering up some tips to their colleagues (and staff) on how to stay out of trouble this election season.

Here are some highlights:

Don't Campaign on the Job

This one is pretty straightforward, but the political parties try to make it even easier for members in Washington by placing their headquarters within a few blocks of the Capitol. So lawmakers routinely leave their offices, walk across the street and into a campaign office to "dial for dollars" or consult with political supporters.

But what if members of the staff are back in their district offices, and their campaign offices are a long drive away? That's easy: Just go home, or find a coffee shop!

You can (almost) always work for free

Many congressional staffers double as campaign staffers or volunteers when an election draws near. But the Ethics Committee brings out the bold to warn lawmakers that they can't force their employees to campaign for them.

Don't Accept Campaign Contributions from Your Staff

That's what Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Tex.) allegedly did, and he got called out on it. Plus, you're supposed to be paying them, not the other way around.

Don't Raid the Campaign Accounts, Either

While most of the 16-page document advises members and staff to be careful with official funds, the committee also makes sure to tell them not to skim off the top from their donors.

Staffers Can Run for Office

Hey, it's a free country. But the Ethics Committee advises staff to give their boss a heads up before heading out to the campaign trail for themselves, and they have to quit if the member is retiring and they are running to succeed them. The document is silent, however, on the awkward possibility of a staffer running to oust his or her own employer...

Here's the complete document from the Ethics Committee:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.