“I’m Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Democrat for Congress, and I approve this message.”
In 2021, it was a difficult refrain to escape in South Florida; Cherfilus-McCormick’s advertisements, each ending in that disclosure, aired hundreds of times on TV.
But three commercials that aired earlier this month in South Florida ended with slightly different disclaimer: “Paid for with official funds from the office of Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick.”
Even though it’s rare, members of Congress are allowed to use official funds for TV ads, as long as they cover official business and steer clear of campaign content. But Cherfilus-McCormick, a new representative from Florida’s 20th District, appears to be blurring those lines.
In many ways, Cherfilus-McCormick’s ads resemble the hundreds of ads that air in races across the country every year. There’s upbeat music, b-roll of smiling families, and a member of Congress explaining what she’s accomplished while in office.
But these aren’t actually campaign ads. They’re commercials produced and paid for by Cherfilus-McCormick’s taxpayer-funded congressional office, not her campaign committee.
A review of House ethics rules suggests Cherfilus-McCormick is operating in a significant gray area when it comes to how members can and cannot spend official funds. And her past financial filings show that it’s not the first time the congresswoman has come under scrutiny for her use of taxpayer dollars while seeking office.