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Ethics Committee admonishes Graham for fundraising in Senate building

Senator sought donations for Georgia candidate Herschel Walker in Fox News interview

South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham has been admonished by the Senate Ethics Committee.
South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham has been admonished by the Senate Ethics Committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate Ethics Committee has admonished Sen. Lindsey Graham for soliciting campaign contributions for Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker from a Senate office building.

During a Fox News interview in the Russell Building on Nov. 30, ahead of the Georgia Senate runoff election, the South Carolina Republican senator was making direct fundraising appeals for Walker, who was running against incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., the Ethics Committee said.

“The Committee further concluded that during your discussion of the senatorial run-off election, you directly solicited campaign contributions on behalf of Mr. Walker’s campaign committee,, five separate times,” Ethics Chairman Chris Coons of Delaware and James Lankford of Oklahoma, the committee’s top Republican, wrote in a letter of admonition to Graham.

The letter noted a past case in which Graham had solicited funds for his own campaign during an unplanned interview outside of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in 2020, for which the Ethics panel did not make a public rebuke.

“The public must feel confident that Members use public resources only for official actions in the best interests of the United States, not for partisan political activity. Your actions failed to uphold that standard, resulting in harm to the public trust and confidence in the United States Senate,” the Ethics leaders wrote. “You are hereby admonished.”

Graham self-reported the violation to Coons and Lankford after the interview, which was one of many he was doing in support of Republican candidates, though generally off campus where direct appeals are allowed.

“It was a mistake. I take responsibility. I will try to do better in the future,” Graham said in a statement.

The Senate Ethics Committee issuing such a letter, along with a formal admonishment, is extraordinarily rare.

The previous most recent public letter of admonition to a senator published on the committee website was from 2018, in connection with the committee’s investigation of the relationship between New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez and South Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen.

Menendez had been indicted and tried on charges of accepting bribes from Melgen, but the jury could not reach a verdict and the judge acquitted the senator on the most serious charges. The Justice Department later dropped the remaining charges. Melgen was convicted separately of Medicare fraud, but his sentence was commuted by former President Donald Trump.

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