CEDAR RAPIDS — In the wake of an ethics complaint filed by a Republican activist, U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley has dropped plans for a deficit reduction workshop in Cedar Rapids, which is outside of his current congressional district.
The Waterloo Democrat’s chief of staff said the workshop was being cancelled to avoid the appearance of an ethics violation.
“Although we had only invited residents of the current 1st District and individuals who had voluntarily signed up for email updates, we have decided to cancel the event to avoid any appearance of contravening a House rule,” John Davis of Braley’s congressional staff said in a statement Wednesday.
Although a spokesman for Braley’s Republican challenger, Ben Lange of Independence, last week called on Braley to cancel the workshop, Davis dismissed the allegation then as having “no merit.”
The Lange campaign was pleased by the cancellation, calling it another case of Lange “holding Washington politicians like Bruce Braley accountable,” Lange campaign adviser Cody Brown said.
“We remain deeply disturbed by the misrepresentations that originated from his Washington office last Friday,” Brown said. “Iowans are tired of Washington politicians who won’t tell the truth.
“An apology is entirely appropriate and would go a long way towards resolving this issue for Iowa taxpayers,” Brown said.
The ethics complaint originated with Matt Giese, the former chairman of the Dubuque Republican Party. In the complaint filed with the U.S. House Ethics Committee, he alleged Braley violated House rules when he sent an email to voters outside his Eastern Iowa congressional district.
Cedar Rapids is in the 2nd District, but as a result of redistricting, the city and Linn County will be in the 1st District as of this fall’s election. Voters there will have a choice of Braley and his Republican challenger Ben Lange of Independence. The winner will represent a new 20-county 1st District.
Lange’s campaign insisted the workshop was a violation of House rules prohibiting House members from using taxpayer resources to promote activities in another congressional district.
Davis had defended the meeting and the email Braley sent voters promoting saying it had been pre-approved by the House Administration Committee.
However, the Lange campaign said the Administration Committee would not address an ethics issue. It called Braley’s response “disingenuous” and issued a detailed memorandum saying the congressman’s response “was designed to pull the wool over the eyes of the public.”
In an email Wednesday, Giese said he believes the matter should be investigated by the Ethics Committee despite the cancellation.
“Braley has taken an important first step in canceling the workshop,” Giese wrote, “but Braley’s response to the complaint last week did raise some additional issues that the Office of Congressional Ethics will be in the best position to evaluate.”