U.S. Rep. Jared Polis recently starred in a lobbying commercial produced by the video game developers of League of Legends that appears to violate House ethical rules in several instances.
The video also serves as an endorsement of the product as well as a bizarre campaign commercial, wherein Polis likens his duties as a member of Congress to the imaginary roles played in video games.
“After a long day of playing in politics or whatever, gaming is great. Nothing is really else on your mind, it’s just a great way to kind of not have to focus on the fights of the day and get a balance in your life. When you win it’s just a great feeling, it’s like passing a bill … “
Polis also discusses at length two bills that would have had a detrimental effect on the gaming industry, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA). Although the bills were defeated, the topic remains as an active issue before Congress. Polis called it Internet censorship that would have disbanded the entire League of Legends forum had it passed.
He doesn’t just represent the 2nd Congressional District of Colorado, Polis says in the video, but the entire gaming community of 27 million League of Legends participants in the online battle arena game.
Here’s where the ethical problems arise; Polis was videotaped in questionable digs — his congressional office and inside the U.S. Capitol campus – and tweeted about the commercial on his official Twitter account.
According to House ethics rules, official resources cannot be used for political purposes. “The House buildings, and House rooms and offices – including district offices – are supported with official funds and hence are considered official resources. Accordingly, as a general rule, they may not be used for the conduct of campaign or political activities.”
The Sergeant at Arms frowns on filming inside the Capitol for political purposes — the video includes a long shot of Polis strolling through the Capitol tunnel hallway.
Twitter accounts are also official resources that are maintained using congressional equipment and often operated by congressional staff.
— Rep. Jared Polis (@RepJaredPolis) April 28, 2015
The video should have been titled: “Jared Polis and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Ethical Breach.”
In similar cases, lawyers have questioned whether such a video would violate the gift ban, or should be listed as an “in kind” campaign contribution.
The fact that Polis is endorsing a product that was not produced in his home state, and clearly lobbying on the company’s behalf in a matter that is before Congress, is also troubling.
These are all matters for the House Ethics Committee to dissect, and we would urge them to do so.
We suspect the committee would not be amused to see their duties as United States Congressmen and women compared to imaginary characters in Polis’s video game.