U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin has been lending his voice to television ads for his plumbing company, despite explicit guidance from the House Ethics Committee that he no longer personally promote his company in broadcast or internet advertising.
Mullin, R-Westville, identifies himself in at least two different television ads for Mullin Plumbing airing in Oklahoma City and Tulsa markets. The ads have aired with increasing frequency since Mullin announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jim Inhofe, according to an analysis obtained by the Oklahoman.
The House Ethics Committee examined Mullin’s involvement with his company and issued a report in 2018 concluding, another things, that the congressman should no longer participate in ads for his company.
A spokesman for Mullin did not respond to a question about his participation in the recent ads. The chief counsel and staff director of the House Ethics Committee did not respond to a question about whether the panel had issued additional guidance to Mullin since the 2018 report.
Report: Mullin ‘cannot participate in … the advertisements for radio, television, and the web.’
The report stated, “Members of the House of Representatives are widely recognizable public servants. Even when they make no explicit mention of their official position, when Members actively engage in commercial sales or endorsements, they may create the perception that they are making use of their official position for commercial gain.
“Members must at all times avoid even the appearance that they are monetizing their public role for personal gain.
“Therefore, the Committee takes this opportunity to clarify for the whole House community that a Member should not be actively involved in personally selling or endorsing goods or services in which the Member has a financial interest. As such, Representative Mullin should now understand that, going forward, he cannot participate in the weekly radio program or the advertisements for radio, television, and the web.”
The report said the restriction “only applies to the active participation in selling or endorsing goods or services. Thus, it does not require Representative Mullin to remove his name from the Mullin Companies, nor does it require the Mullin Companies to scour the Internet to take down old videos of advertisements featuring Representative Mullin.
“Instead, the Mullin Companies can no longer take active steps to promote Representative Mullin’s endorsement of the companies. Thus, the Mullin Companies cannot film any new advertisements featuring Representative Mullin, and old advertisements featuring Representative Mullin should be removed from the Mullin Companies’ website.”
Mullin ads were broadcast more than 500 times in May
In a statement in 2018 after the ethics report was released, Mullin said he had complied with the committee’s guidance since taking office in 2013 and that the rules were being changed.
“The new guidance in this report only proves that you can no longer be a citizen legislator. You have to be a career politician to serve in Washington, D.C.,” Mullin said then. “If I don’t fit the bill for a citizen legislator as a plumber, rancher, and someone who had never held a political office before, then who does?”
In his first campaign for the House, Mullin faced controversy about whether his appearances in plumbing company ads ran afoul of rules on electioneering. After the Federal Election Commission split on the matter, Mullin announced he would stop appearing in the ads during the campaign.
One of the Mullin Plumbing ads currently airing is five seconds, and the other is 15 seconds. Each begins, “Hi, I’m Markwayne Mullin of Mullin Plumbing.”
According to a media company analysis, the ads aired 130 times in February, 218 times in March, 440 times in April and 524 times in May. About two-thirds of the air time has been in the Tulsa market.
Inhofe announced on Feb. 25 that he would retire when the current Congress ends in early January. Mullin announced a day later that he would seek the seat. Mullin is considered the front runner in a field of 13 Republicans. The primary is June 28. A runoff, which will be likely to pick a nominee, would be held on Aug. 23.