If the new congressman from Bucks County missed his swearing-in to attend a fundraiser - as alleged in an ethics complaint filed Wednesday - it's a pretty good sign that Republican Michael Fitzpatrick considers his primary job to be raising the money he needs to get reelected.
By effectively launching his reelection bid even before taking the oath of office, Fitzpatrick comes off as cynical or clueless.
Considering that he held this congressional seat before being exiled for two terms by former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Fitzpatrick can’t very well plead ignorance of House rules on getting yourself sworn in.
Whatever the case, Fitzpatrick subjected himself to national embarrassment by missing the House opening last week to attend a reception attended by more than 500 supporters at the Capitol Visitor Center.
Fitzpatrick denies it was a fundraiser in a setting where such events are barred, but his campaign's invitation to the event solicited contributions.
Then Fitzpatrick, along with Rep. Pete Sessions (R., Texas), tried to take the oath of office remotely – by raising their hands and watching the proceedings over a television broadcast of Speaker of the House John Boehner administering the oath. How lame.
Worse, Fitzpatrick went back into the House and cast several votes – ballots which later had to be declared null and void, since the representative wasn’t yet officially a member of Congress.
With their excellent adventure, Fitzpatrick and Sessions earned the further dubious distinction of being perhaps the first members of this new Congress to be the subject of a call for an ethics inquiry. The watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, filed its complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) allegeing “blatant violations of House rules, federal law and the U.S. Constitution.”
Representing a district that seesaws back and forth between Democratic and Republican control, Fitzpatrick has less than two years to live down this episode.
Maybe that’s why he’s so focused on his reelection effort already.