Watchdog Calls for Investigation into Sen. Marsha Blackburn for Abusing Her Office to Avoid a Traffic Ticket


Contact: Michael Clauw,, 202.780.5750

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA) sent a letter to the Senate Select Committee on Ethics requesting an investigation into whether Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) violated ethics rules by relying on her position as a United States Senator to avoid a traffic ticket. CNN reported that right before a Senate recess, Sen. Blackburn was travelling in a vehicle – potentially rushing to make a flight home – when a Capitol Police officer pulled over the car in which she was travelling. Sen. Blackburn got out of the vehicle, flashed her congressional pin, which identified her as a senator, and the officer let the car go.

While Sen. Blackburn’s office confirmed the traffic stop, it claimed that the officer asked the senator for identification, which would have been unusual as Blackburn was not driving.  A text sent by one of the senator’s aides to a friend contradicts this explanation; he wrote that after being pulled over, “the senator ‘hopped out, flashed her pin, hopped back in the car [and] said drive.’”

Read the letter.

CfA Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “This is a cut and dried example of an elected official abusing her position to avoid consequences other citizens face. Congressional pins are not Disney Fast Passes allowing senators to speed through the streets of D.C.”

Senate rules of conduct prohibit senators from using their position and status to receive special or favorable treatment. In 2007, the Senate Ethics Committee admonished Sen. Larry Craig for showing a police officer who arrested him in an airport restroom a business card identifying him as a U.S. Senator and asking the officer something to the effect of “What do you think about that?” Similarly, in 1990, the House of Representatives reprimanded Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)  for intervening to fix an aide’s numerous parking tickets.

Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “Members of Congress must abide by the same laws as everyone else. Flashing a congressional pin to avoid a traffic ticket might not seem like a particularly severe offense, but it is the kind of conduct that galls Americans who pay must pay their traffic tickets. The Senate Ethics Committee should make clear to Senator Blackburn that she is not above the law.”

Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.