On Monday, April 10th, 2023, the non-partisan ethics watchdog, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), filed a complaint requesting the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) investigate Congressman Jeff Jackson of North Carolina, to determine whether he has used his TikTok account in violation of House rules and abused official resources for political purposes.
The Chinese-owned app TikTok has raised data privacy and national security concerns with the Biden Administration, U.S. Congress, the FBI, and the FCC. As such, TikTok is now banned from all official federal government devices.
Despite these concerns, Rep. Jackson has chosen to use a campaign TikTok account. With 1.6 million followers, he has been described as “Congress’ biggest TikTok star” in recent months due to a series of videos directly addressing the nation’s most hotly debated issues. The biography portion of Jackson’s account describes him as a “Congressman (NC-14)”, and he directly links to his campaign website. Political posts include videos in which he spoke about campaigning and a campaign interview. However, also on his campaign account, Jackson has made posts using photographs of the House floor and government buildings–official resources that Members are prohibited from using for campaign or political purposes.
The ethics rules require a strict separation between campaign social media accounts and official government resources–a campaign account cannot contain any official content or resources. The fact that Rep. Jackson has apparently used official resources on his campaign TikTok account is a violation of House ethics rules. Additionally, the ethics rules prohibit Members from taking photographs in government buildings for political purposes and obtaining photographs of the House floor and Committee proceedings for political purposes. Thus, not only is his use of the account a violation of the ethics rules, but the content within his posts are additional violations of House ethics rules.
“The laws and ethics rules prohibiting Members from using official resources for political purposes are clear and longstanding. Not only do these ethics rules protect taxpayer funds, but they also protect the integrity of the government and maintain citizens’ trust. Anytime a Member does not comply with these laws it is troubling and should concern citizens. The OCE should act to enforce these fundamental ethics rules,” 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/