Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., the ultra-wealthy unelected legislator who faces a January runoff election, solicited campaign donations in the halls of Congress during a Wednesday morning Fox News appearance, in an apparent violation of both Senate ethics rules and federal law.
"Look, we know that hundreds of millions of dark, liberal money is pouring into our state," Loeffler told America's Newsroom host Sandra Smith in the interview. "That's why it's so important that everyone across the country get involved. They can visit Kelly for Senate dot com to chip in five or 10 bucks and get involved, volunteer."
Loeffler, far and away the wealthiest member of Congress, also posted a separate clip from the same interview, conducted in the Senate building, to her personal candidate Twitter page. That video links out to a campaign donation form.
Senate ethics rules bar lawmakers from asking for campaign contributions on federal property, and federal statutes make doing so a crime. From 18 U.S. Code § 607:
It shall be unlawful for an individual who is an officer or employee of the Federal Government, including the President, Vice President and Members of Congress, to solicit or receive a donation of money or other thing of value in connection with a Federal, State or local election, while in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties by an officer or employee of the United States, from any person.
Violators, the law says, "shall be fined not more than $5,000, imprisoned not more than three years or both."
Citing that criminal statute, the Rules and Standards of Conduct maintained by the Senate Ethics Office say "members and staff may not receive or solicit campaign contributions in any federal building."
"This kind of shameless fundraising in the halls of the Senate is a clear ethics violation and yet another example of how Senator Kelly Loeffler is looking out for herself," Alex Floyd, spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Georgia, told Salon in a statement. "It's been months since Senator Loeffler has taken action to help Georgians impacted by the pandemic, and instead of using her time in Washington to fight for coronavirus relief, she's doing what she thinks is best for her political campaign."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was widely criticized in October for fundraising during a televised interview in the halls of the Senate, a move blasted as "a crime in plain sight" by a fellow member of Congress.
(Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger now claims that Graham pressured him to throw out legal mail ballots during a call the top official expected to concern the state's upcoming runoffs, including the one involving Loeffler.)
But whereas Graham told supporters that "a little bit goes a long way" when he directed potential donors to his campaign website, Loeffler, who has publicized her promise to self-fund her campaign, explicitly enumerated an item of value — "five or 10 bucks."
Federal filings show that Loeffler, who has reportedly circulated an article claiming that she and her husband are worth $800 million, has so far given her re-election effort $23 million. Of that figure, $5 million arrived in late September, a few days after the senator's husband, the chair of the New York Stock Exchange, liquidated between $1,250,002 and $5.5 million in stock of a financial management company he owns. (Loeffler worked there as a senior executive until her appointment to the Senate last December.)
But Loeffler has not given any money to her campaign outright. Instead, she has contributed it in the form of repayable loans.
In September, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., called Loeffler out for allegedly bribing President Donald Trump with $50 million in exchange for helping her knock out her Republican special election opponent. Loeffler, who appears to have tapped a loophole in Trump's tax bill which allows business owners to write off the costs of private jets, dismissed Gaetz's remarks as inaccurate.
Loeffler edged out Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., in Georgia's Nov. 3 special election. Now, she faces a runoff against Democratic challenger Dr. Raphael Warnock in January. Along with another Georgia runoff between Republican Sen. David Perdue and Democratic rival Jon Ossoff, the contests will decide whether Democrats or Republicans ultimately control the U.S. Senate.