Indiana GOP Files Ethics Complaint Against Joe Donnelly

Donnelly called out for using taxpayer-funded material in latest campaign ad

Sen. Joe Donnelly / Getty

The Indiana Republican Party has filed a complaint to the Senate ethics committee against Sen. Joe Donnelly (D., Ind.) for his "improper and illegal use of official resources for campaign purposes," pointing to use of photos taken by his official office in his latest campaign ad.

The complaint, filed on Wednesday, is in regards to a photo of Donnelly's February 2017 meeting with then-Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch that was taken by his Senate office and posted to the internet. The photo appeared in the Donnelly campaign's latest ad, which points to Donnelly's vote for Gorsuch.

"Today, I am filing a formal complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate Senator Donnelly's flagrant abuse of taxpayer dollars in a desperate bid to get re-elected," said party chairman Kyle Hupfer. "In the meantime, Donnelly's campaign must immediately cease running this ad and issue a public apology to Hoosier taxpayers."

Donnelly's office has previously denied that it was posting materials from his meetings with Supreme Court nominees online for the purpose of making them available to the campaign and other election groups, acknowledging it would be "illegal" to do so.

The remark came after the Washington Free Beacon reported in August after Donnelly's meeting with Brett Kavanaugh that his office posted footage of the two.

"The fact of the matter is that Donnelly for Indiana has no intention of using that footage in an ad—but more importantly, even if the campaign or any outside group wanted to use this footage, it would be illegal," said Donnelly spokesman Will Baskin-Gerwitz.

The Indiana Republican Party is taking the comment from Baskin-Gerwitz as an admission of wrong-doing.

"Democrat Joe Donnelly is so desperate to fool Hoosiers into thinking he's not a liberal Democrat, he'll violate Senate ethics and break federal law to do it," said Hupfer. "Even his own spokesman admitted it's illegal."

The letter calls for an investigation into Donnelly and whether he's directing his staff to take actions intended to boost his election chances.

"If Donnelly directed his official staff to take this picture for use by his campaign this would be an improper use of official resources," the letter states. "Given Donnelly's pattern of posting content from his official Senate office, seemingly intended for his campaign to use, we request this committee also investigate and determine if Donnelly is improperly using his official staff to campaign for reelection instead of serving the residents of Indiana in his official capacity as U.S. senator."

Politico reported in June that it was becoming standard practice among Democrats to post material onto sites such as YouTube for it to be used by groups they're not allowed to coordinate with. Donnelly was one of the Democrats showcased for his campaign's coordination with Senate Majority PAC.