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Democrats Jump on GOP E-mail Plea for Campaign Help

A staffer for Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) on Friday improperly used his House e-mail account to forward a request from a National Republican Congressional Committee staffer seeking volunteers to man a campaign phone bank, according to a copy of the e-mail obtained by Roll Call.

Ethics rules dictate that House e-mail addresses are to be used exclusively for activities related to Members’ official duties; political activities are prohibited.

While the original NRCC e-mail does not violate any rules — there are no restrictions on what Congressional staffers can receive in their e-mail accounts — it is a violation to forward any politics-related e-mails using the House accounts.

The original e-mail was sent to several House staffers by a junior NRCC employee asking for volunteers to help with a phone bank for candidate Jim Oberweis (R), who ran in Saturday’s special election for the seat vacated by former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).

The e-mail reads: “A last minute plea, if you have interns sitting around today, please send them over to the [Republican National Committee] room B2 to phone bank for Oberweis in IL-14. Staff, etc. will be making calls all day up until 9 tonight. The phone bank will open tomorrow (Election day) at 9am and end at 7pm. Feel free to forward to friends on the Hill etc.”

Chabot’s staffer then forwarded that e-mail to several House and Senate staffers working for the Ohio delegation, according to one knowledgeable Democratic aide.

While using Congressional e-mail for political activity is a rules violation, the Democratic aide suggested that there are additional questions over whether sending interns from Member offices to the NRCC for election work violates any rules.

If the interns are paid, this aide noted, they could not be paid during the time they volunteer for the phone bank.

A Chabot spokesman did not return a phone call seeking comment by press time, but an NRCC spokeswoman defended the e-mail.

“Even Congressional employees and interns are allowed to volunteer on Congressional campaigns,” spokeswoman Julie Shutley said.

One campaign official noted that the e-mail was sent casually and not meant to be official correspondence from the NRCC.

“This was just him on a personal level sending it to some of his friends,” the official said.

That official also maintained that NRCC officials can send e-mails to whomever they want, and House staffers shouldn’t be held accountable for what they receive.

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