Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) used the power of her office to get out of a ticket after she was stopped by Capitol police on Constitution Ave. on Thursday as she rushed to make her afternoon flight out of Washington.
After the car was stopped, sources told CNN that she got out and flashed her congressional pin at the officer. The officer allowed her to go.
CNN also reviewed text messages sent by one of Blackburn’s aides, Leo Kowalski to his friends after the incident.
Kowalski told his friends that the senator “hopped out, flashed her pin, hopped back in the car [and] said ‘drive!'”
“Officer didn’t say a word, just shook his head,” the aide said.
Capitol Police said there is no record of the incident, but Blackburn’s office confirmed the incident took place in a statement after the story broke.
“While en-route to the airport to fly to Memphis for constituent meetings, Sen. Blackburn’s driver was pulled over,” a Blackburn spokesperson said in a statement. “The police officer asked the Senator for identification, which she provided, and then proceeded to the airport.”
Norm Eisen, who served as special assistant for ethics and government reform under President Barack Obama told CNN that Blackburn’s actions could either run afoul of Senate ethics rules, or at least create the appearance of impropriety.
“Ethics applies to infractions large and small,” said Eisen. “The whole idea of ethics is we are all the same. No one is above the law. That is one of the core principles. Here when you have a member flagrantly using of all things congressional insignia to get preferential treatment, that’s improper.”
“That is not what that badge is for: to be treated differently than any other American motorist.” Eisen added.
But Stan Brand, a Washington based ethics lawyer says Blackburn’s actions is not a major offense against ethics rules. “I think it’s more of an optical issue because it looks like legislators are throwing their weight around and acting like they’re privileged,” he said.