House Dems Block Investigation Into Dem Senate Candidate

Rep. Val Demings (D., Fla.) / Getty Images
March 1, 2022

Democratic leadership in the House is shutting down an investigation into illegal use of taxpayer funds by Rep. Val Demings (D., Fla.), who was caught abusing mailing privileges as she runs in a high-profile statewide race.

The Washington Free Beacon has learned that the bipartisan House Communications Standards Commission last month opened an investigation into Demings following a complaint that she sent a 12-page, campaign-style mailer to Floridians outside her district. The Democratic chairwoman of the commission, Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (Pa.), told her Republican colleagues in a letter obtained by the Free Beacon that she does "not believe that further inquiry is warranted" and on Tuesday will vote against investigating the matter further. Her vote against further action will effectively end the investigation.

Following the commission's initial investigation of the complaint, Demings in a three-page letter from attorneys at Elias Law Group, obtained by the Free Beacon, admitted that the mailings went outside her district. The firm was founded by longtime Democratic operative Marc Elias. Scanlon's campaign also employed Elias for "legal services," having paid his previous law firm thousands of dollars since 2019.

"This is just the latest example of Democrats twisting rules, process, and precedent to cover up the violation of a member," a senior congressional aide with knowledge of the matter told the Free Beacon. "On top of that, the involvement of a partisan attorney like Marc Elias, who simultaneously represents the chair of the Commission, only further raises issues of a conflict of interest. This was a valid complaint filed with the Commission and a clear-cut violation of the rules, yet the Democrat members of the Commission are not only moving towards dismissing the complaint but are actively blocking any attempts to further look into the matter."

Demings's attorneys blamed the private vendor in charge of the mailing for the violation and alleged that their client did not violate federal law because the mailing was not "targeted." Members of Congress are only allowed to send mailers free of charge to residents within their district regarding "matters of public concern and Congressional actions," a practice known as "franking."

Republicans on the commission, such as Rep. Kat Cammack (Fla.), do not believe the matter has been investigated thoroughly. In a letter to Scanlon, Cammack insisted that more information on the alleged mistake is required.

"Here, even though the Member is a candidate for statewide office, she appears to have engaged in little to no oversight of her vendor's operations, explaining that she was so unaware of its operations that she neither reviewed nor approved final mailing lists to ensure compliance, did not know and did not inquire concerning the vendor's mailing practices, and was overall so uninformed about the process that she did not know a violation had occurred" until the complaint was filed, Cammack wrote in her letter.

Demings's campaign for Senate has from the onset been marred by allegations of her using her taxpayer-funded office to boost an uphill bid for Senate. The Free Beacon reported that Demings violated congressional ethics the day she launched her Senate campaign by using her government Twitter account to build support for her campaign account.

Demings is expected to handily win her primary battle to earn the Democratic nomination to challenge Rubio in the fall. While she has raised millions of dollars since announcing her candidacy in June of last year, she is not expected to win the race.

Demings did not respond to a request for comment.