The non-partisan ethics watchdog, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), filed a complaint requesting the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) investigate Congresswoman Cindy Axne of Iowa for abusing the House’s proxy voting rules. Representative Axne stated to the House Clerk that she couldn’t vote in person due to the covid-19 pandemic, but the real reason was so she could vacation in France as she later admitted.
On August 12, 2022, Rep. Axne filed a letter with the House Clerk stating she was unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the covid-19 pandemic, granting Rep. Jennifer Wexton to cast her proxy vote in favor of the Inflation Reduction Act.
Contrary to Rep. Axne’s statement to the House Clerk, an Instagram Post by Rep. Axne’s son showed her and her family in Paris a day before the vote. When Rep. Axne’s campaign was questioned about the true reason for her proxy vote, the Instagram post was removed.
Rep. Axne was questioned again by another reporter in a televised interview and gave the following response:
“The deal is I’m a family member, I’m a mom of two boys and my husband. We have an August session where we were out of session here and I had a trip planned for eight months, and paid for, because that was the only time that I could go, because we were out of session. Now the Senate finally got their act together and was able to pass something a year after we passed it in the House, and then an emergency vote was called, and I was gone. I wanted to make sure that I voted so Iowans could have a voice because we need the Inflation Reduction Act for Iowans, and we needed to make sure we had that vote, and I will always make sure that I will vote for Iowans.”
Rep. Axne clearly did not use the proxy vote for its authorized purpose and made a false statement to the House Clerk.
The House ethics rules require Members to “conduct themselves at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House.” This broad and “comprehensive provision” applies to any conduct taken in a Member’s official capacity. Members are further required to adhere to both the spirit and the letter of the House ethics rules and must read all the rules and ethical requirements broadly. This includes House rules adopted “to ensure Congress can continue legislation during Covid-19,” under which members are permitted to vote by proxy when needed “because of a public health emergency due to a novel Coronavirus is in effect.” “This is a clear case where Rep. Axne blatantly made a false statement to the House Clerk, and by extension to the American people. There is no ambiguity here—she admitted it on television after she was caught. Obviously, this willful abuse of the proxy system is very troubling and yet another example of politicians not even being able to follow the simple rules they themselves put forth,” said Kendra Arnold, Executive Director of FACT.
A full copy of the complaint can be found here.
FACT is a nonprofit organization promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency in government and civic arenas. For more on FACT, visit: http://www.factdc.org/