AUGUST 02, 2012
The notoriously remiss House Ethics Committee, known for allowing lawmakers to get away with all sorts of indiscretions, has finally reprimanded a corrupt member for illegally using her congressional staff as personal servants and forcing them to work on her political campaign.
Southern California Democrat Laura Richardson, a member of Judicial Watch’s 2011 “Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians” list, had it coming. For years she has been embroiled in a variety of scandals, including the foreclosure of three homes used to get cash to finance her political campaign and abusing her power to get one of the properties back. The bank had sold the foreclosed home to another party and literally snagged it because Richardson wanted it back.
Not surprisingly, the House Ethics Committee failed to punish her over the foreclosure scheme, but was forced to act in this case. That’s because a former staff member revealed that the congresswoman required her and other staffers to run personal errands—such as picking up her dry cleaning—and to work on her reelection campaign at taxpayer expense.
Richardson quickly played the race card, claiming that she was being targeted because she is black. She even tried to intimidate the House Ethics Committee, officially known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, by saying that she would explore whether it “has engaged in discriminatory conduct.”
Incredibly, the panel didn’t back down. This week an investigative subcommittee determined that Richardson improperly used House resources for personal and political campaign purposes, compelled congressional staff to work on her campaign and obstructed the committee’s investigation by altering or destroying evidence and through the “deliberate failure to produce documents.”
Furthermore, the three-term congresswoman “acted with utter disdain for the Committee’s process,” according to a scorching 21-page report posted on its website. “Through her actions, she demonstrated a callous disregard for her staff and the resources entrusted to her by the American people,” the report goes on. “Her disrespect for boundaries between the official and the political realms, as well as the boundaries that define the Committee’s jurisdiction, deserves a public reprimand.”
Ouch! The question now is; what will that so-called “reprimand” be for violating the standards of conduct? Rarely are members punished and when they are, it’s a joke. The ethics committee has for years come under fire for not properly investigating corrupt lawmakers or simply conducting sham probes that usually end in absolution. After all, the investigators are the friends and colleagues of the scrutinized subjects. Often they’re financial beneficiaries.
In Richardson’s case the biggest punishment will likely be embarrassment and the effect that the committee’s probe may have on her reelection. At the moment, she’s in an uncomfortably tight contest with another popular Democrat to keep her congressional seat. Richardson also faces a $10,000 fine. However, “she should be expelled,” according to Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, who has tracked the congresswoman’s many transgressions over the years.
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