Congressman Jim Renacci
Photo: Associated Press
Photo: Associated Press

Democrats file complaint against Senate candidate Jim Renacci for misuse of political office

In a five-page complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics, state Democratic Chairman David Pepper accuses Renacci, who is running for the seat now held by Democrat U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, of using his congressional website to promote his now-defunct gubernatorial candidacy; tweeting about his campaign on his official House Twitter account; tweeting a picture of him engaging in campaign activity in his congressional office; and sharing a photo of him at a congressional hearing on his campaign Facebook page.

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In the letter, Pepper asks Omar Ashmawy, chief counsel and staff director for the Office of Congressional Ethics, to “take appropriate remedial action” against Renacci.

“By using official House resources for political purposes, especially to promote his candidacy for the United States Senate, Representative Renacci is undermining the credibility and dignity of the House,” Pepper writes.

Pepper’s letter lists a series of actions that he said violate congressional rules. For example, on Sept. 8, 2017, Renacci posted on his congressional website a column he wrote for the Toledo Blade detailing the actions he’d take if elected Ohio’s next governor. Five days later, he posted a column on his website that he wrote for Capitol Hill publication “The Hill” detailing how he’d fight the opioid crisis if elected governor. And on Jan. 12, 2018, his official House Twitter page twice advertised a Fox News interview detailing Renacci’s decision to run for the Senate and also advertised a series of radio interviews where he discussed his Senate candidacy.

Pepper said it’s against both federal law and House rules to use congressional resources for campaign or political purposes. The House Administration’s Handbook for Members of Congress, for example, states that a member’s website may “not include personal (outside of incidental references), political party (except for political party affiliations), or campaign information.” Renacci’s Twitter feed, they argue, falls under the same rules and “impermissibly links Representative Renacci’s candidacy for United States Senate with his duties to the people of Ohio’s 16th Congressional District as their representative in the House.”

Those activities, Pepper wrote, “appear to be flagrant violations of the law and demonstrate a complete disregard for House Rules.”

Renacci, a four-term representative from Wadsworth, is seeking the GOP nomination against three opponents in the May 8 primary.

James Slepian, a spokesman for Renacci, dismissed the complaint.

“After repeatedly embarrassing themselves over the past eight years falsely accusing Jim Renacci of everything short of the Lincoln assassination, it’s no shock to see the Ohio Democratic Party desperately trying distract voters from Sherrod Brown’s radically liberal voting record with another round of laughably bogus attacks on Jim Renacci,” he said. “Jim has already defeated two incumbent Democrats in this state, and if the Ohio Democratic Party thinks they’ll stop him from defeating a third one this November by peddling more of their fairy tales, they clearly haven’t learned their lesson.”

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