Rep. Mondaire Jones used a congressional COVID rule to assign another lawmaker vote for him on more than a dozen bills in the House of Representatives — while he partied on the French Riviera at HBO star Issa Rae’s lavish wedding, The Post has learned.
The allowance was enacted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to let COVID-stricken members vote as well as to reduce their potential exposure to the virus while traveling from their districts to the nation’s capital.
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Jones employed the potentially misused perk on 17 pieces of legislation between July 19 and July 27, 2021 as he lived it up in France, Instagram posts and online records reveal.
During that period, a series of posts on the picture-sharing social media platform in which the lawmaker is either featured or tagged show he spent time with a group that included multiple entertainment industry professionals who traveled to Paris, Beaune, Bordeaux and Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.
Jones — competing for the open House seat in a race that includes ex-Mayor Bill de Blasio — did not travel to Bordeaux, Versailles or Beaune, according to his campaign spokesperson, who confirmed he was in France to attend the “Insecure” star’s wedding.
In order to authorize votes to be cast by someone else while out of the country, the Democrat wrote in a July 19 letter to the House clerk that he was “unable” to be there in person because of the “ongoing public health emergency” — the standard language used in proxy vote permission notes.
“I am unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency, and I hereby grant the authority to cast my vote by proxy to the Honorable Nikema Williams (Georgia), who has agreed to serve as my proxy,” he wrote alongside his signature.
While across the Atlantic, Jones hung out with a fashionable jet-setting group, three members of which either appeared in or worked on HBO show “Insecure” co-created by Rae, who married Louise Diame on July 25 in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, a French commune overlooking the Ligurian Sea.
Rae — who doesn’t appear in any of the photos but commented in at least one of them — hosted a fundraiser for Jones in August 2019 in Manhattan, where she said, “We need people like him” in Congress.
Ahead of the wedding, Jones handed off his votes to a colleague on legislation such as, the Divided Families Reunification Act to help Korean American families reunite with family members that remain in North Korea, a bill to ban toxic carcinogens that have been found in New York’s drinking water, as well as the yearly budgets for the federal health, labor and education departments.
“We know Mondaire is quite unfamiliar with New York City, but remote-control governance ain’t gonna cut it here,” scoffed a rival campaign insider on Wednesday.
“Sending votes in from the south of France feels par for the course for MIA Mondaire.”
In response, a Jones campaign rep said the congressman had no regrets about delegating votes for the decidedly not COVID-19 precaution-related reason.
“It’s hard to tell what The Post is more offended by, Mondaire Jones voting against Republicans multiple times or Mondaire Jones attending the wedding of his close friend, and absolute icon, Issa Rae,” campaign spokesperson Bill Neidhardt said in a statement.
“I know it makes the Post feel ‘Insecure,’, but Rep. Jones has no apologies for his votes against the GOP or for being with his good friend during the most important week of her life,” he quipped.
It’s unclear when exactly Jones arrived in France for the nuptials. A rep could not provide a timeline for his trip.
An Instagram post indicates he was back in DC by Aug. 2.
Before his return, in a July 26 multi-picture post by producer and actor Andrew Allan James, who acted in the comedy-drama, Jones was captured dressed in a blue blazer and white button-down shirt riding with more casually dressed friends in a vehicle in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat near Nice.
Rae commented on it with a string of approving emojis.
The day the snaps were shared, the Democratic lawmaker had his votes cast by Williams three times, according to Congressional records.
Williams (D-GA) registered votes on the Gold Star Mothers Family Monument Extension Act, a bill to authorize the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation to create a commemorative project in DC, and a procedural matter, they show.
Jones has designated others to vote for him on nine other occasions, online records show.
Following the excursion, on Aug. 1 Jones’ traveling companion Deniese Davis, an “Insecure” producer, gushed about it a series of pictures on Instagram — one in which Jones is captured wearing a blue suit — with the caption, “The trip of a lifetime.”
On Aug. 2, James, the actor and producer, shared several photos, including a selfie with the Democratic legislator, and a video of Jones cheersing with a drink along with the vacationers.
“Ravi d’avoir fait votre connaissance,” James wrote in the post, which translates roughly to “pleased to have made your acquaintance.
And on Aug. 14, another member of the travelers — Amy Aniobi, a producer and writer on the show — shared more snaps with her more than 14,000 followers from the vacation, one that showed Jones with 14 others in what appears to be a hotel room.
“I just came back from Nice, so…” its caption read.
Jones liked both posts from his personal Instagram account.
Ahead of his trip, Jones expressed to his Twitter followers the joys of leaving the country, while reminding them to make sure their passports are valid.
“Summer is a great time to travel abroad, but before you go, make sure your passport is valid and up to date!” he tweeted on July 10. “As more Americans prepare to travel abroad, passport renewals can take up to 18 weeks, so don’t delay.”
After his presumably up-to-date passport was stamped during his jaunt, official federal documentation shows Jones passed off his vote-casting duties to Williams for the Consumer Protection and Recovery Act on July 20 and on July 21 with the PFAS Action Act of 2021 which created regulations on perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, both carcinogens that have been detected in New York state drinking water.
A week later, records show Williams voted for the lawmaker from suburban New York on new fiscal year appropriation bills for the federal Labor, Health and Human Services and Education departments.
Also on July 27, he gave voting duties to the Peach State rep for the DUMP Opioids Act.
John Kaehny, head of the government watchdog group Reinvent Albany, said it’s “not a great look” to vote from France. While remote voting has become commonplace and accepted during the pandemic, “elected officials should probably be helping constituents in their district” if they vote remotely, not from a foreign country, he said.
Democratic campaign consultant Jon Reinish told The Post that he predicts Jones’ campaign rivals will use voting by proxy from the French Riviera as ammunition against him.
“This is a race that is highly watched and incredibly crowded. Every candidate will have every micro-problem of [their] record scrutinized,” said Reinish, a former aide to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
“Being in Europe when there are votes taken in the House is certainly an issue that an opponent can use against Congressman Jones. Everything is fair game.”
But Reinish said he doesn’t believe the matter will deliver a death knell to Jones’ campaign, because the brownstone Brooklyn and lower Manhattan district has a largely affluent constituency who have the means to vacation in Europe.
“I don’t know if people have a problem with it, but that doesn’t mean an opponent won’t use it against him,” he said.
His July getaway while the House of Representatives was in session began just weeks before members of the legislative body began a more than months-long break from casting votes.
According to the 2021 House calendar, lawmakers headed home for a “district work period” for the entire month of August, and didn’t have any scheduled activity in DC until “committee work” on Aug. 31 or votes until Sept. 20.
But based on a policy enacted due to “the ongoing public health emergency” created by COVID-19, Jones was free to globe-trot for a friend’s wedding while a different member performed a key component of his job for him.
At the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, in May 2020, the Democratic majority in the House passed a measure allowing proxy voting.
Instead of being physically present on the House floor, members could continue to submit their votes on legislation and other matters via designated colleagues. Under the newly enacted rules, lawmakers were afforded the ability to vote on behalf of up to 10 colleagues if they have written letters authorizing them to do so.
At the time, Democrats said it was a reasonable and temporary measure to ensure sick and vulnerable colleagues have a say in legislation as the virus spread rapidly. Many Republicans opposed it at the time, and continue to do so.
In September, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) took the case to the Supreme Court arguing that proxy voting was unconstitutional.
In January 2021, the court declined to take up the lawsuit, and in March and May, Pelosi extended the pandemic-induced policy despite other COVID-19 regulations like mandatory masking and a two-year ban on the Capitol being open to the public being nixed.
Proxy voting is still permitted through June 28, Pelosi announced on May 13 in a notice to members of the House. Republican lawmakers have pledged to next year put an end to remote voting if they regain the majority in November’s election.
Jones — who currently represents Rockland County and parts of north Westchester — last month swooped in from Rockland County to run in the Democratic primary in the transformed 10th Congressional District instead of his redrawn 17th.
In a pair of Twitter posts, the openly gay lawmaker announced his Democratic primary bid for the newly drawn 10th district, while framing the swap as him following in the footsteps of other LGBTQ people of color who have “sought refuge” in the area.
“I have decided to run for another term in Congress in #NY10. This is the birthplace of the LGBTQ+ rights movement,” Jones tweeted on May 21. “Since long before the Stonewall Uprising, queer people of color have sought refuge within its borders.”
The district stretches from Lower Manhattan — including Tribeca, Greenwich Village, the East Village and the Lower East Side — into Brooklyn’s DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Windsor Terrace and Borough Park neighborhoods.
The seat is without an incumbent, since Rep. Jerry Nader chose to vacate the seat and hit the campaign trail on the Upper East Side and Upper West Side in a contest against fellow veteran politician Rep. Carolyn Maloney.
Following the redistricting, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney said he would primary Jones for his newly redrawn 17th district instead of seeking reelection in his own remapped 18th CD. That prompted Jones — a former Westchester County lawyer who replaced former longtime Rep. Nita Lowey — to last month begin a bid several miles from the suburban district he currently represents.
Jones has the backing of Pelosi in his coming contest, sources have told The Post.
In the August Democratic primary, Jones will face off against a host of contenders who have recently been elected by voters in parts of the district: de Blasio — who represented Park Slope and surrounding neighborhoods in the City Council in the 2000s — Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou of lower Manhattan, Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon of Brownstone Brooklyn and Councilwoman Carlina Rivera of the East Village.
Other House wannabes in the 10th CD include Elizabeth Holtzman — the 80-year-old first woman city comptroller, four-term congresswoman before she became Brooklyn DA — Daniel Goldman, the Democrats’ lead lawyer in the first impeachment of former President Donald Trump, and Chinese dissident Yan Xiong.
Jones is not the only member of Congress to vote from outside the nation’s capital.
Rep. Kaiali’i Kahele (D-Hawaii), who is set to leave congress to run for governor, has been absent from Congress for most of 2022, only voting in person five times as of mid-April.
In 2021, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez picked fellow left-wing Democratic House member Jamaal Bowman to vote on her behalf while she campaigned for then-mayoral candidate Maya Wiley.
Earlier this year, House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY) voted by proxy on the same day she appeared with former President Donald Trump for a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.
Additional reporting by Carl Campanile and Callie Patteson