This just in: Don’t come for Rep. Brian Sims unless he calls for you.
The 38-year-old ex-football-stud-turned-hunky-Democratic-lawmaker is not having accusations that misused campaign funds, misreported campaign contributions, and collected over $50,000 in dodgy speaking fees.
“No entity that has brought me in for a lecture has ever sought any vote or favor from my office,” Sims told Metro in a very strongly-worded email. “If you actually take a minute to look at my speaking engagements over the last four years, you’ll see that they have focused on institutions of higher learning both in Pennsylvania and across the country.”
Sims said that the majority of the speeches he has given since taking office in 2012 have been about his experiences as an openly gay football player in high school, becoming a captain of the football team at Bloomsburg University, his experience as a civil rights attorney, and his activism for LGBTQ causes.
He added that it’s “nothing short of ridiculous” for anyone to suggest that “students of these institutions are somehow ‘buying access’ to me or the Pennsylvania legislature.”
The accusations came from a bombshell report by City & State Pennsylvania, which implied Sims had violated the state Ethics Act, which states “state lawmakers are banned from collecting speaking fees or other honoraria,” when he collected a total of $53,000 in speaking fees from a number of higher education institutes.
But according to Pennsylvania Ethics Commission executive director Rob Caruso, there are exceptions to the rule.
“A public official or public employee could accept an honorarium if the payment was for or the request to appear is in relation to the public official or employee’s occupation or profession and not related to their elected or public office,” Caruso said, adding that most requests are handled on “case-by-case basis.”
And according to Sims’ campaign, they followed all protocol. And then some.
“In an abundance of ethical caution, Rep. Sims secured approval from the Counsel of the House Democratic Caucus before continuing his speaking engagements,” the campaign said in a statement, adding that Sims even double-checked with party lawyers to make sure he was allowed to accept payment for his speeches.
The campaign went on to call the whole inquiry “a shame.”
“This inquiry is simply another ‘click-bait’ attempt to smear a legislator who has the standing to use his experience to bring attention to national issues,” it said.