Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of the Carolina Journal. The author of this post is Theresa Opeka.
Democrat North Carolina Congressmen Jeff Jackson and Wiley Nickel are under scrutiny for their use of TikTok by a Washington D.C. watchdog group.
The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) has filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) on Jackson and Nickel for using the social media platform owned by Chinese company ByteDance Ltd.
FACT says that both Congressional members' use of TikTok and posting campaign and official content led to abusing official resources and violating House ethics rules.
FACT noted that the FBI and FCC have warned that data from TikTok, including biometric identification, browsing history, and location, could be shared with the Chinese government. The FBI and Justice Department have reportedly begun investigating whether TikTok has spied on U.S. citizens, including journalists. In December, the House of Representatives banned the TikTok app from all official devices, and President Biden signed a Republican-backed bill to ban the use of TikTok on government-issued devices. The Biden Administration has also looked at a possible ban on the company if it isn't sold.
As a side note, Democrat North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper banned TikTok and WeChat on all state government devices in January, and S.B. 83, which bans TikTok and other social media platforms on government devices, is currently in the House Rules Committee.
U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis also called out Jackson to stop using TikTok, saying his use of the app is "beyond reckless."
The watchdog group said that despite all of the warnings, Nickel and Jackson continued to use the platform for political purposes, with links to their campaign websites in their biography section. They say Nickel also uses the account for official House purposes, but Jackson went one step further by making posts using official House resources.
Jackson, whom the Washington Free Beacon has called "the most TikTok-famous House member,"
has 1.6 million followers on an account that appears to have been created in April 2021. It shows Jackson's time as a North Carolina state senator, campaigning for his current position as the representative for NC-14, and currently as a congressman. His last post was on Tuesday, describing a Texas judge's ban on the abortion pill.
FACT says that Jackson's use of the TikTok account for campaigning, along with showing and discussing the inner workings of Congress, puts him in direct violation of House ethics rules that prohibit members of Congress from using official resources for campaign purposes.
The official complaint states that his accounts contained numerous campaign and political posts. Within several of these posts, Jackson used official government resources, namely photographs of the House floor and the Armed Services Committee.
Second, the content within Jackson's posts (photographs of the House floor and Armed Services Committee) also violates official resources and House ethics rules. Members are prohibited from taking any photographs in government buildings to be used for political purposes, and Members are prohibited from obtaining photographs of the House floor and Committee proceedings to be used for political purposes. A Member cannot use a photograph that was obtained from another source if he couldn't use the photograph in the first place. The political use of these photos is clearly shown by the content of these posts and the fact they were posted on a campaign TikTok account.
"The laws and ethics rules prohibiting Members from using official resources for political purposes are clear and longstanding,"
Kendra Arnold, Executive Director of FACT, said in a press release. "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."
Nickel's videos range from interviews with C-Span in February, which is also his last post, and MSNBC after he won the election for NC-13 in November, to campaign videos.
The official complaint for Nickel says that his posts include campaign advertisements and videos from campaign events, along with video recorded from inside the Capitol and an interview where Nickel is wearing his official Member pin.
The complaint also says the content of the posts that contain video recorded in the Capitol is a violation of the ethics rules and an abuse of official resources. Nickel's TikTok account linked to his campaign website and had campaign advertisements posted on it with a clear political purpose. However, Nickel posted two videos recorded in the Capitol (an official resource) and used those videos for political purposes. In the case of the C-SPAN interview, the ethics rules prohibit Members from reposting videos obtained from a news outlet if the Member could not use the video in the first instance.
"These violations reveal a complete disregard for the clear and longstanding prohibition of using official resources for political purposes,"
Arnold said in a press release. "Complying with the law and House Ethics rules are a fundamental obligation for elected officials. The OCE must move swiftly to investigate and enforce these bright-line standards and apply the requisite penalty."
FACT has also recently called for an investigation into Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar for her use of social media and also named Democrat Rep. Kathy Manning, NC-6, as one of the top ethics violators of 2022.