It’s been an interesting few weeks in the political lame excuses department, and we’ve got another one today from Tom Tancredo’s Presidential campaign. M.E. Sprengelmeyer of the Rocky Mountain News explains the controversy:
If someone offered you “a tour of the U.S. Capitol,” would you expect to get a guided tour of the building where Congress does its business, or a tour of the city where the U.S. government resides?
That’s a key distinction that’s at issue as Rep. Tom Tancredo’s presidential campaign defends itself from anonymous charges alleging that it violated House of Representatives ethics rules with a July 14, 2007, letter to supporters.
In recent days, an anonymous e-mail writer has been trying to get various Iowa news outlets to investigate the letter sent by Tancredo’s senior adviser, Bay Buchanan, to Tancredo supporters, encouraging them to recruit their friends to attend the Iowa Republican Party’s non-binding but closely-watched Ames Straw Poll on Aug. 11…
…In the July 14 letter, Buchanan outlined various incentives for folks who help build Tancredo’s “Army Against Amnesty” that night.
Those who help bring six straw poll attendees are to get autographed copies of Tancredo’s book, plus a t-shirt. Those who bring 12 people, get a book, a t-shirt and dinner with Tancredo in Iowa. And those who bring 25 folks, according to Buchanan’s letter, are to get an “autographed book, T-shirt, and an all-expenses paid trip to DC to meet Tom for dinner and get a tour of the U.S. Capitol!”
The last line, referring to the U.S. Capitol, is the issue.
If it’s a reference to the building (or the greater U.S. Capitol complex where Congress does its work), then using it in a campaign-related solicitation could raise issues under House ethics rules, which have a strict prohibition against using official congressional resources for political purposes.
So how does Buchanan explain this apparent violation? By pretending that they used the wrong spelling of the word ‘capital.”
“We will be touring with Tom to his favorite spots in Washington. We’d just be giving the same tour they could be getting publicly. The tour is of Washington, D.C. There’s certainly no prohibition.”
Asked if the letter could be seen as an offer of special access to the U.S. Capitol building where Congress does its official business, Buchanan said: “It can be interpreted that way, but that’s not what it means.”
While it’s certainly possible that Tancredo’s campaign made an honest mistake here, I find it a little hard to believe that it wasn’t done with the intention of leading people to believe the tour would be of the Capitol building, not the capital city. A private tour of the Capitol would be pretty cool; a private tour of Washington D.C…not as much.
The bigger names in the Republican Presidential field haven’t made much of a stink about this because Tancredo has about as much chance of winning the Presidency as you or I. And given that you need to show up with 25 people in order to win the “Capitol” tour, there may not be a huge risk of this coming to fruition; Tancredo would probably be happy to get 25 votes at the straw poll, much less to have someone show up with 25 friends in tow.