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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Group wants Congressman Tom Rooney investigated for calling for Bill Nelson's defeat

A news release issued by Rep. Tom Rooney's office in Washington.

Rep. Tom Rooney's office

A news release issued by Rep. Tom Rooney's office in Washington.

WASHINGTON - A liberal group wants the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate whether Rep. Tom Rooney violated House rules by issuing a sharply-worded news release about Sen. Bill Nelson that declared, “I hope Florida voters replace him next year.”

Rooney, R-Okeechobee, sent the release on March 27 as Democrat Nelson declared he would oppose Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court. “Nelson is hypocritically putting his own wants and needs above objectively considering a judge who has shown nothing but full capacity to serve on the Supreme Court," it read.

The American Democracy Legal Fund said it will submit a complaint today.

“Rep. Rooney violated the House's prohibition on the use of official resources when he issued a press release on his official House website announcing his opposition to Florida Senator Bill Nelson's reelection and condemning his decision not to support cloture for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch,” reads an announcement.

“The press release states, ‘I am extremely disappointed, though utterly unsurprised, that Senator Nelson would put political posturing above the needs of the American people...I hope Florida voters replace him next year in the 2018 election.’ Rep. Rooney's use of an official press release for a partisan political campaign purpose is a misuse of official House resources, and is prohibited under House ethics rules."

The Buzz obtained a copy of the complaint, which was drafted in April, and asked Rooney for comment.

“I in no way, shape or form endorsed any candidate,” he said. “I didn’t solicit campaign funds for myself or anybody else. And I never said anything along the lines that I was supporting one candidate over another. I merely said that Bill Nelson, in my opinion, for political reasons opposed a guy he supported 10 years ago and nothing has changed with (Gorsuch’s) judicial acumen or character, which is the standard by which senators are supposed to confirm Supreme Court justices.”

Despite that defense, Rooney said he would tell House ethics officials he will review the language of his release.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have used the word ‘election’ and maybe we should change it to, ‘I hope he’s no longer senator if he is going to act in such a political way,'" Rooney said in the interview.

The March 27 missive did raise eyebrows for its tone and seeming randomness — and a question whether Rooney is considering running for Senate. He said he is not for 2018 but could think about it in the future.

[Last modified: Monday, May 15, 2017 2:24am]


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