Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who finds himself locked in a dead heat with his Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison, was accused of illegally soliciting campaign donations in remarks to reporters after Wednesday’s confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
“I think people in South Carolina are excited about Judge Barrett,” Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said. “I don’t know how much it affected fundraising today, but if you want to help me close the gap . . . Lindsey Graham dot com — a little bit goes a long way.”
After congratulating his opponent on a record-setting $58 million raised last quarter, Graham added: “I never felt better about my campaign than I do right now.”
Senate ethics rules bar lawmakers from soliciting campaign donations on federal property, and federal statutes make doing so a crime. From18 U.S. Code § 607:
It shall be unlawful for an individual who is an officer or employee of the Federal Government, including the President, Vice President, and Members of Congress, to solicit or receive a donation of money or other thing of value in connection with a Federal, State, or local election, while in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties by an officer or employee of the United States, from any person.
Violators, the law says, “shall be fined not more than $5,000, imprisoned not more than three years or both.”
The Senate Ethics Office, citing that law, says that “Senate Members and staff may not receive or solicit campaign contributions in any federal building.”
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., a former deputy district attorney, posted a tweet accusing Graham of committing a crime.
“This is a crime @LindseyGrahamSC committed a crime in plain sight,” Swalwell wrote.
Graham, whose $28 million haul last quarter was more than doubled by Harrison’s record-setting $58 million, has directly asked supporters for contributions in at least eight separate appearances on Fox News since Sept. 21.
“I’m being killed financially,” Graham said in a Sept. 24 Fox News interview. “This money is because they hate my guts.”
Graham, who polls show running neck-and-neck with Harrison, came up just short of another solicitation while addressing Barrett during Monday’s confirmation hearing.
“I don’t know what’s going on out there, but I can tell you there’s a lot of money being raised in this campaign,” he said, looking around the room. “I’d like to know where the hell some of it’s coming from.”
“But that’s not your problem,” he added.
“After 25 years in Washington, Sen. Graham should know better than to spend his time campaigning in the halls of Congress,” Lauren Brown, communications director for the South Carolina Democratic Party, said in a statement provided to Salon. “This profile in desperate and unethical behavior is unbecoming of a U.S. senator — and it is yet another demonstration of why Sen. Graham’s time in Congress is coming to an end.”
Graham expressed concerns about the GOP’s national chances to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., during Thursday’s hearing.
“Y’all have a good chance of winning the White House,” he said.
“Thank you for acknowledging that,” Klobuchar responded.
“Yeah,” Graham said. “I think it’s true.”