DID RICHARDSON USE STAFF TO CAMPAIGN AND FETCH DRY CLEANING?By Greater Long Beach
Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Long Beach/Carson) is alleged to have forced her congressional staff to work on her campaign and perform personal errands by a not-for-profit legal watchdog group that is asking the Federal Bureau of Investigation to begin a criminal investigation.
In a release from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the group cites internal office e-mails it obtained, as well as numerous press reports, as evidence. CREW’s complaint alleges Richardson intimidated staff into making political contributions, solicited contributions on federal property, improperly used appropriated funds, and made false statements to Congress.
“Rep. Richardson presented staffers with an odious choice: work on her campaign, or lose their jobs,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan in the release. “Astonishingly, in just three short terms, Rep. Richardson has been the subject of at least two ethics investigations. Now a criminal investigation should be added to the list. Although there is some competition for the title, Rep. Richardson may well be the most ethically challenged member of Congress.”
In March, Press-Telegram reporter Paul Eakins interviewed Maria Angel Macias, Richardson’s former district scheduler, who said staff members were required to “volunteer” their time on Richardson’s re-election campaign last year and that she scheduled Richardson’s campaign events while on the taxpayer dime.
LBReport.com contacted Richardson’s communications director, Richard Zaccarro, and received this e-mailed comment:
“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 is exhibits supports 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.”
The CREW investigation found that internal e-mails regarding a fundraising event dubbed “Democratic Idol” show Richardson Chief of Staff Shirley Cooks told employees they were required to attend the event, wearing staff shirts embroidered with the phrase “37th Congressional District.” In an e-mail from her official House account, Ms. Cooks stated that spouses and interns were expected to attend as well.
In addition to having Capitol Hill staff work on her campaign, the congresswoman also routinely required staffers to perform personal errands for her, such as picking up her dry cleaning, a violation of the law requiring government funds to be used only for official purposes. Relatedly, by certifying that staffers were paid only for work done for official purposes when she submitted payroll forms, Rep. Richardson appears to have made false statements to Congress.
“Rep. Richardson didn’t just violate House rules; she likely committed crimes,” said Ms. Sloan. “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.”