Complaint filed over Stevens' fundraising off raucous floor speech

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Washington — A watchdog group filed an ethics complaint Tuesday against U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens for a fundraising solicitation that used a photo of a House floor speech that ended in shouting after she ran over her allotted time to talk about the coronavirus crisis.

The nonprofit Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a conservative group, alleges the use of the image violates House ethics rules against using government resources or coverage of floor proceedings for partisan campaign purposes and is asking the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate. 

"The ethics rules explicitly prohibit members from using House floor photographs for campaign purposes and from soliciting campaign contributions tied to votes," said the foundation's executive director, Kendra Arnold, in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills, was ruled out of order during a speech on the House floor about the coronavirus relief package on Friday, March 27, 2020.

“It is important these laws are followed and enforced to protect taxpayers and ensure every vote is taken on its merit and not for political gain."

Stevens' campaign on Tuesday said it would aim to prevent the issue from recurring. 

"Congresswoman Stevens is working tirelessly to support front-line health workers and stand up for families in Michigan during this unprecedented crisis," a campaign spokesman said. 

"Our campaign always strives to follow all ethical guidelines for email updates and will make sure to prevent any similar oversights in the future." 

The complaint follows a Friday episode during the House debate on the $2.2 trillion economic rescue package in response to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Stevens, a freshman Democrat from Rochester Hills, was ruled out of order after her time expired and she continued to talk over the presiding officer as he banged down the gavel. 

Congress later Friday approved the stimulus package. The next day Stevens' campaign sent an email to supporters using an image of Stevens at the lectern mid-speech, donning a pair of light pink protective gloves. 

U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, a Democrat from Michigan, was ruled out of order during a speech on the House floor on Friday morning. She was wearing Latex gloves.

It explained her support of the legislation, saying it would bring relief to working families and "serves as a good start in securing our economy and our medical community."

The message concluded with reference to the backlash against the scene she had caused on the floor the previous day: 

"Republicans are already attacking Haley for passionately speaking out for her district, calling her 'unhinged' and 'crazy' for demanding that we listen to public health experts and support working families," the email read.

"f you’re able, will you support Haley’s campaign by making a contribution ...?"

Republicans pounced on the complaint. Calvin Moore, a spokesman for the Congressional Leadership Fund that's aligned with GOP leadership, accused Stevens of "attempting to fundraise off the failed PR stunt."