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Ethics Scandal Ensnares Democrat Rep. Matt Cartwright, Top Donor

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Democrat Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA) appears to be involved in an ethics scandal after he was seen in a commercial praising his top donor’s law firm after he was filmed talking about his newly passed bill about water contamination at Camp Lejeune, according to Axios.

As members of Congress are forbidden to use official taxpayer-funded resources to promote themselves in a commercial or for campaign purposes, Cartwright was seen in the video clip praising the multi-million dollar law firm Parker Waichman and a partner, Jerry Parker, for their representation of U.S. servicemen and family members affected by water contamination at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Axios explained.

Interestingly enough, Parker and his wife have donated the maximum legal amount to the congressman’s congressional campaign, where he’s facing a fierce Republican challenger, Jim Bognet.

The congressman authored the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, which was signed into law last month. The law now allows servicemen and family members affected by the contamination to sue the federal government for any damages caused.

In a lengthy video clip posted on the law firm’s website, Cartwright said, “Folks like Jerry Parker and Parker Waichman, they’re at the point now where they really have to roll up their sleeves and take these cases in front of the court and win them.”

In fact, part of the video clip ran in television ads from Parker Waichman this month to help the law firm seek additional plaintiffs in its work with the Camp Lejeune litigation.

“I’m Congressman Matt Cartwright…Jerry Parker introduced me to this whole problem. I owe Jerry Parker a great debt of gratitude,” Cartwright said in the television commercial. Additionally, the congressman posted pictures on his Instagram page that indicated that the ad was filmed in his official taxpayer-funded congressional office, Axios noted.

Shortly after the television ad began running, Cartwright’s congressional office sent Parker a cease-and-desist letter on August 9, demanding the firm stop using the clips of him in their advertising and promotional material for the firm. The congressman wrote in the letter:

No permission to use my name or likeness in advertisements soliciting clients for your legal practice was ever granted to you by me or my representatives. I hereby demand that you cease and desist from using my name or likeness in any client solicitation of any kind.

Axios reported that Parker responded to Cartwright with an apology, calling the firm’s move to make the television commercial an “overreach” and said he is “genuinely sorry for any trouble this has caused” him.

The letter from Parter noted that the firm’s “marketing team posted the video to our website and used an excerpt in a television commercial” and confirmed that the congressman “never authorized” the use of his comments.

Cartwright’s spokesperson told Axios that the video was filmed as part of an event following the passage of the congressman’s bill, which Parker also mentioned. Cartwright’s spokesperson added:

[B]ecause there is often video shot at celebratory events, the Congressman did not object to the visit being videoed, but certainly never authorized the recording to be used for commercial purposes. If we had known the video was intended for commercial purposes, we would not have allowed it.

Regardless of what the congressman’s office and his donor stated, the ethics rules for lawmakers are strict about using taxpayer-funded resources for commercial ventures. In fact, the House Ethics Manual mentions that communications, whether they be private, political, or commercial use, should not be used to indicate an official sponsorship or endorsement.

“The prohibition against use of House resources to support unofficial undertakings clearly applies to support of business endeavors,” the House Ethics Manual stated.

In fact, the Functional Government Initiative, an “organization dedicated to improving the American public’s awareness about the officials, decisions, and priorities of their government,” said on social media Thursday night that they intend to file an ethics complaint against the congressman.

“Using your official office to film a commercial for a top donor’s law firm is not a ‘misunderstanding.’ It’s unethical. FGI intends to file an ethics complaint against @RepCartwright,” the group wrote.

The National Republican Congressional Committee  (NRCC), which has targeted the congressman this election cycle, hoping to unseat him and elect a strong conservative, noted that “Cartwright knew exactly what he was doing when he sat down to film.”

“Matt Cartwright knew exactly what he was doing when he sat down to film this ad in his congressional office, and any efforts to clean up this unethical and possibly illegal mess are a desperate attempt to skirt accountability,” said NRCC Spokeswoman Samantha Bullock

Bognet’s campaign manager, Joe Desilets, also released a statement hammering the Democrat for his ethics violations, saying, “Cartwright was already named one of the worst ethics violators in all of Congress.” Desilets continued:

Matt Cartwright was already named one of the worst ethics violators in all of Congress, an impressive feat that I’m sure every corrupt politician would be proud of, but this latest ethics violation takes the cake. Cartwright has sold himself and his office to the highest bidder, enriched himself and his family through his office, hidden assets worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from congressional disclosures, all while failing to pay his taxes for the second time in four years. A man without any moral or ethical compass cannot be trusted and cannot be allowed to continue to serve the people of Northeast Pennsylvania in Congress.

Cartwright and Bognet will face each other in the November election.

Jacob Bliss is a reporter for Breitbart News. Write to him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @JacobMBliss.


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