Florida Dem's 'embarrassing' Zoom call during House committee meeting may violate ethics rules, watchdog says
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EXCLUSIVE: Florida Democratic Rep. Val Demings touted her Senate candidacy in a virtual event while remotely attending a congressional hearing, and a conservative watchdog group says that may violate House ethics rules.
Demings remotely attended a House Judiciary Committee meeting on April 5, while at the same time as the proceedings, she joined a over Zoom to promote her campaign for U.S. Senate, according to a complaint from the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust obtained by Fox News Digital.
"Not only was this incident an embarrassing moment for [Demings], and for the House, but a serious rules violation appears to be present as well," the complaint sent to the Office of Congressional Ethics states.
Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) (Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS)
During the committee hearing on the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, Demings made use of the House's rules allowing representatives to attend proceeding remotely in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Demings voted on amendments, but a campaign video shows her apologizing for having to listen in to the Judiciary Committee so she could hear when it was her turn to respond to the roll call.
"Of course I’ve been looking so forward to being with the Duval Caucus, and here I am stuck in a markup in Judiciary so I apologize for the background noise, but of course I am also listening to the hearing there, so I know when it is time for me to vote," Demings says in a recording, obtained by FACT.
Demings is running to unseat Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and on April 5 joined the Duval County Democratic Black Caucus to court Jacksonville, Florida, democrats — a coalition she will need to win in the general election.
Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
"You all know my opponent in this race, someone who votes against things that are good for Florida," Demings said of Rubio. "Someone that really doesn’t… Excuse me, I am waiting for my name to be called. Someone who does not believe in climate change, he says winter, spring, summer, and fall. I’m running against someone who likes to pick winners and losers based on their ability to pay to play. Hold on just a second. No, no. Okay, I’m sorry, thank you all so much. Um, and also, my opponent doesn’t like showing up for work."
In a video of the committee meeting, Demings can be heard voting remotely on several amendments.
Demings was far from the only committee member tuning in remotely. In fact, Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., had to remind the representativemultiple times to "mute themselves unless they're voting."
The House has general rules stating that members are to "conduct themselves at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House," and FACT alleges that Demings' participation in a political event while attending an official committee proceeding violated rules requiring separation between campaign and congressional business.
"Demings’ dual attendance at the events show she chose to virtually attend the committee hearing not for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but to speak at a campaign event—clearly contrary to the authorized purpose for the rule set forth in House Resolution 965," which set the parameters for conducting business in the House remotely due to the COVID-19 emergency.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi extended the proxy voting rules, along with allowance for remote attendance at congressional hearings, in March. Sergeant at Arms William Walker, in consultation with the U.S. Attending Physician Dr. Brian Monahan, wrote that the "public health emergency due to the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 remains in effect."
Demings, the former police chief of Orlando, is running for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, and will likely face Rubio in the November midterm elections.
Demings' office did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment.