Dem Rep. Cartwright busted for ethics violation, appearing in TV commercial for attorney friend and donor

There are quite a few elected politicians from both parties, as well as the donors who support them, who are a bit ethically challenged at times, and that may include Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) and one of his personal friends and top donors, attorney Jerry Parker of the Parker Waichman law firm.

Cartwright and Parker appear to have violated House ethics rules that forbid the use of “official taxpayer-funded resources” to promote “commercial” or “campaign purposes,” Breitbart reported.

At issue here is a TV commercial run by the Parker Waichman firm that featured Rep. Cartwright in his congressional office with Parker, a maxed-out donor, to promote a class-action lawsuit against the federal government over contaminated water at Marine Corps installation Camp Lejeune that was authorized by legislation Cartwright wrote.

Congressman appeared in ads for a friend’s law firm

Axios reported that Rep. Cartwright is now trying to distance himself from Parker and his law firm’s commercial after an outcry erupted over the dubious ethics of the TV commercial that has since been removed from the air and the law firm’s website.

At some unspecified point before when the bill Cartwright authored was signed into law, a video was filmed in the congressman’s office in which he praised Parker personally and his firm more broadly for bringing the issue to his attention and helping to seek justice for Marines, their family members, and employees who suffered adverse health issues due to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune over several decades.

Excerpts from that video in Cartwright’s office were subsequently used in a TV commercial for Parker Waichman to encourage potential victims to join the lawsuit, but shortly after that commercial began to air, the congressman sent a cease-and-desist letter to the law firm to demand they stop airing the ad.

“No permission to use my name or likeness in advertisements soliciting clients for your legal practice was ever granted to you by me or my representatives,” Cartwright’s letter said, and added, “I hereby demand that you cease and desist from using my name or likeness in any client solicitation of any kind.”

Just a couple of weeks later, Parker sent a reply letter back to Cartwright in which the attorney thanked the congressman for the meeting, acknowledged that excerpts had been used in the commercial, admitted that it had been an “overreach” on the firm’s part, and announced that the ad had been taken down.

Ethics complaint likely forthcoming

That is likely not the end of the story, though, as despite Rep. Cartwright’s cease-and-desist letter and the law firm’s removal of the ad, the damage had already been done and House ethics rules had been violated, and a formal ethics complaint will likely soon be filed.

A government watchdog group known as the Functional Government Initiative seized upon the Axios story, as well as the excuse that it was all a “misunderstanding,” and tweeted, “Using your official office to film a commercial for a top donor’s law firm is not a ‘misunderstanding’. It’s unethical. FGI intends to file an ethics complaint against @RepCartwright.”

Also weighing in on the matter is the National Republican Congressional Committee, which said in a statement to Breitbart, “Matt Cartwright knew exactly what he was doing when he sat down to film this ad in his congressional office, and any efforts to clean up this unethical and possibly illegal mess are a desperate attempt to skirt accountability.”

A statement was also issued to Breitbart by the campaign of Cartwright’s GOP opponent in November, Jim Bognet, that accused Cartwright of being among the “worst ethics violators in all of Congress,” of which this current issue is only the latest example, and asserted, “A man without any moral or ethical compass cannot be trusted and cannot be allowed to continue to serve the people of Northeast Pennsylvania in Congress.”

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