A ethics watchdog is asking the FBI to investigate whether Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA) was misusing her congressional staffers to by forcing them to work at campaign events and run personal errands, a violation of federal law.
The group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said in a letter to the FBI’s Washington field office that “requiring staff members to engage in campaign-related activities undermines the basic principle that government funds should not be spent to help incumbents gain re-election.”
CREW obtained a Sept. 27, 2010 email from Richardson Chief of Staff Shirley Cooks that says that all staffers were required to attend a “Democratic Idol” fundraising event. “Please bring spouses and tell interns they have to be there as well,” the email says.
The complaint also alleges that Richardson made staffers run unspecified personal errands in violation of federal law.
“Rep. Richardson didn’t just violate House rules, she likely committed crimes,” CREW’s Melanie Sloan said in a statement. “While the House Ethics Committee is already investigating - for all the good that ever does - the FBI should step in and conduct its own inquiry. The Department of Justice has a responsibility to ensure members of Congress who violate the law are held accountable.”
As Roll Call reports, her office previously confirmed that the House Ethics Committee had interviewed staff about allegations on her use of staffers like those in CREW’s letter.
Late update: Richardson spokesman Ray Zaccaro told TPM in a statement:
“The allegations in today’s letter released by CREW are not new and they are based on media accounts, information and claims reported publicly months ago. “Nothing in the CREW letter or its exhibits support the allegations that Congresswoman Richardson ever forced or coerced members of her staff to engage in campaign activity. “As this office has previously confirmed, staff were interviewed by the House Ethics Committee in November 2010. The Congresswoman and her staff have fully cooperated. “It should be noted that, over the course of nearly two years, CREW leveled allegations against the Congresswoman relating to the improper foreclosure sale of a home she owned, and although the House Ethics Committee cleared her of any wrongdoing in July 2010, almost a year ago, CREW has yet to apologize for or retract the unsupported allegations the group made in that case.”