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Is there a law or a House rule preventing House of Representatives members using their time on the House floor, or committee floor, to hold election campaign events?

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There are several House rules and laws that prohibit Members from using their time on the floor or in committee meetings for campaign activities, including rallies. These prohibitions are discussed in detail in Chapter 4 of the House Ethics Manual, on "Campaign Activity."

The general rule covering which resources can be used for campaigns is simple:

"official resources of the House must...be used for the performance of official business of the House..., and may not be used for campaign or political purposes." p. 123

The "basic principle" underlying this rule is also simple:

"government funds should not be spent to help incumbents gain reelection." p. 123

The ban extends to the use of "House buildings, rooms and offices – including district offices." Since these are "supported with official funds," they "are considered official resources," and,

"as a general rule, they may not be used for the conduct of campaign or political activities, and...are not to be used for events that are campaign or political in nature..." p. 127.

These rules obviously prohibit members from using the floor or committee meetings for campaign rallies.

The House rules also prohibit using tv footage of "House floor...or committee proceedings" in "partisan political campaign material to promote or oppose the candidacy of any person for public office." p. 128.

It is also a federal crime to solicit campaign contributions while on government property.

In many cases, it is relatively easy to tell when these laws and rules have been broken. Either the Senator called a donor from her office, or she didn't; either she held a campaign rally or she didn't. But in other cases, it may not be so easy to tell when these laws have been broken. For example, suppose a Member throws in several partisan soundbites while speaking on the floor, hoping to make the nightly news. Could this be considered using the House floor for "political purposes"?

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  • So what's the answer to the question with which you end your answer? – grovkin Dec 10 '19 at 15:19
  • @grovkin This is one of these situations where "everyone knows," but what they know isn't enough to support a conviction in court. I thought of your question when I read this, in a story about the Judiciary committee hearings on impeachment: "congressional scholars say it’s more useful to think of this week's [Judiciary committee meetings] as de facto campaign rallies." It's a story because de facto is not always de jure. politico.com/news/2019/12/12/… – Just a guy Dec 12 '19 at 18:28

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