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Watchdog calls for House ethics inquiry into Crist over proxy voting

An ethics watchdog has asked the House Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) for allegedly abusing the proxy voting process.

Under the House Clerk’s coronavirus policies, members of Congress are allowed to vote by proxy if they are unable to vote in person on the House floor due to “the emergency of public health”.

However, Crist cited this House policy as the reason for proxy voting more than 100 times between January and April 7. During that period, Crist only voted in person 18 times over four days in March.

Crist reportedly filed letters with the House Clerk saying he continued “to be physically unable to attend proceedings in the House chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency”.

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), a non-profit organization founded by former President Donald Trump’s former acting attorney general, Matthew Whittaker, argued that the real reason Crist used the proxy voting 107 times was due to his ongoing gubernatorial campaign in Florida.

The complaint said:

However, contrary to Crist’s statement to the Clerk of the House, it is apparent that the real reason he is voting proxies and attending committee hearings virtually is unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic. On the contrary, the reason is that he can campaign for the governorship. On the days he voted by proxy, Crist attended public events for his gubernatorial campaign

FACT’s call for an investigation came after Crist’s spokesperson admitted the Florida governor hopeful used the proxy voting process so he could keep his campaign going.

Crist’s spokesperson said in April:

The congressman has two important missions: to represent Florida’s 13th district in Congress and to give Floridians, exhausted by Ron DeSantis’ endless culture wars, a clear choice in November. The proxy offers a great way to ensure that the voices of its constituents continue to be heard on legislation before Congress.

FACT supplemented its complaint with multiple examples of Crist voting by proxy while on the campaign trail in Florida.

FACT executive director Kendra Arnold accused Crist of failing to fulfill her obligation to “maintain the integrity of government action”.

Arnold said:

In this case, both public and official, the evidence leaves little doubt that Rep. Crist is taking advantage of a rule passed for a national health emergency to attempt to further his political career. Ethics rules function to maintain the integrity of government action, and the Congressional Ethics Office is responsible for ensuring that each member fulfills the public trust inherent in the office and abides by the House ethical standards.

“Unfortunately, in this instance, Rep. Crist appears to have fallen far short of that standard, therefore, we urge the Board to immediately investigate Rep. Crist for proxy voting abuse,” Arnold concluded.

Recent polls show Crist will likely lose the Florida gubernatorial election if he makes it past the Democratic primary and faces Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in November. DeSantis beats Crist by an average of 8.8%, according to current data from RealClearPolitics.

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