Democrats use of Fauci image in fundraising pitch triggers ethical questions

The website for House Democrats' campaign arm has been hosting a "Thank You" card for Fauci, President Biden's chief medical advisor and a key figure on the Trump coronavirus task force.

Updated: February 18, 2021 - 11:13am

The partisan campaign arm for House Democrats has been raising money from a "Thank You” card for infectious disease physician Dr. Anthony Fauci, raising ethical questions about using a government official to endorse political activities.

Former President Trump was often accused by Democrats of abuse of the Hatch Act, which prohibits civil service employees in the executive branch of the federal government from engaging in some forms of political activity. However, the Hatch Act contains broad exceptions for the president and vice president, exceptions which would not extend to Fauci, who serves as chief medical advisor to President Biden.

The DCCC ad includes a photo with Fauci standing and speaking from the podium in the White House press briefing room with the official White House logo prominently displayed. "Thank You, Dr. Fauci!" the site reads. "Sign the card to thank Dr. Fauci for his work." When a user clicks through and enters in an email address to sign the digital "card," a fundraising page comes up and asks users to donate.

The clickthrough page tells users: "We need your help. Our grassroots-led movement is committed to fortifying our Majority and defeating Trump's Republicans in 2O22. Will you step up today?" It allows users to "chip in" various amounts, including $3, $10, $19 ("our average grassroots donation!") or "another amount."

The clickthrough page also includes this question: "House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is bragging about his plans to take back the House, put Trump's Republicans in charge, and block Joe Biden's bold agenda. Do you agree we must do whatever it takes to protect our House Democratic Majority in 2O22?" 

Card signers also are told, "By providing your phone number (home or mobile) you consent to receive recurring updates through automated text messages and calls from DCCC."

Neither the DCCC nor the White House press office responded to requests for comment from Just the News about whether the White House or Fauci was aware of or approved of the advertisement or whether it was an appropriate use of the White House logo and image of a Biden official to be used for a partisan cause.

"If Fauci is involved in this partisan fundraising effort, he is violating federal law and federal ethics guidelines, including the Hatch Act," Hans von Spakovsky, a former member of the Federal Election Commission, told Just the News. Von Spakovsky is currently a manager of the Heritage Foundation's Election Law Reform Initiative and a senior legal fellow in Heritage's Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.

Fauci reportedly told the news outlet OZY that he has no intention of running for office. "I think I'm going to stick with what I'm good at, and that is science and public health," he told OZY in January. "I'll leave the politics to other people." Neither the DCCC nor the White House responded to a question about whether that could change in light of the fundraising pitch.

Republican Carol Swain, a prominent African-American activist and scholar, told Just the News on Saturday that she and many conservatives felt that Fauci often sought to undermine Trump and his efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic so she wasn't surprised to see him in a partisan ad for Democrats.

"The fact that Joe Biden announced early on that he was going to keep him on meant that he was 'one of them,' and he was one of their team players," Swain said. "So I'm not surprised that they would want to celebrate him, since he was one of the persons that have undermined President Trump on the coronavirus."

Swain said Fauci's appearance in the ad fell outside of ethical bounds, but that "I just prefer that they tip the hand, and just reveal everything that we already knew and suspected about his relationship with the Democratic Party."

Swain said she doubted that Fauci, who is 80 years old, had any aspirations for public elected office.

"I seriously doubt if someone like him would run for office," Swain said. "I think it's just a way to raise money."