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Indiana GOP files ethics complaint over Donnelly video

August 20, 2018

The Indiana Republican Party on Monday said it filed a formal ethics complaint against Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly for allegedly using taxpayer-funded resources for campaign purposes.

The Indiana GOP, along with Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike Braun and the Republican National Committee, raised questions after Donnelly’s federal office posted a short b-roll video of his meeting with U.S. Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Donnelly’s office posted the 42-second clip to YouTube on Wednesday after the senator sat down with Kavanaugh. The video, which does not include any audio, shows Donnelly greeting Kavanaugh and sitting down at a conference table with him.

Republicans argue Donnelly posted the video so his campaign and other outside groups with an interest in his re-election could use the footage in future advertisements.

Campaigns are not allowed to coordinate directly with outside groups, but candidates have regularly found ways to skirt around that rule.

Earlier this summer, Politico reported that U.S. Senate Democrats, including Donnelly, have been posting specific attacks of their opponents on their campaign websites for outside groups to use. In several instances, outside groups published similar advertisements within days of the specific talking points being posted.

The complaint that Indiana Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer filed with the Senate Ethics Committee says Donnelly wrongly used taxpayer dollars for campaign purposes.

“In sum, it is abundantly clear that official resources must only be used for official purposes,” the letter states. “This does not include posting b-roll footage for the purpose of giving outside groups material to use in campaign videos.”

Hupfer requested that Donnelly’s office remove the footage and apologize to constituents.

“It is also imperative that Donnelly’s office does not continue this pattern of misusing official funds,” Hupfer wrote in the letter.

Donnelly’s office called the complaint a "politcal stunt."

“This nakedly political stunt is just the latest bald-faced lie from Rep. Braun's campaign,” Donnelly campaign spokesman Will Baskin-Gerwitz said in a emailed statement Monday morning. “The fact of the matter is that Donnelly for Indiana has no intention of using that footage in an adbut more importantly, even if the campaign or any outside group wanted to use this footage, it would be illegal. Rep. Braun and his campaign are doing a disservice to Hoosiers by selfishly politicizing the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice because they can't stand that Joe is dutifully doing his job while Rep. Braun complains from the sidelines.”

Braun’s campaign immediately criticized Donnelly for the video last week, and the Republican National Committee described the move as “grandstanding.”

“Career politician Joe Donnelly blocked cameras from his meeting with Judge Kavanaugh, but that didn’t stop him from secretly filming the meeting so his buddy Chuck Schumer and other liberals could use the footage for political ads,” Mike Braun’s spokesman Josh Kelley said in a written statement last week.

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