Sunday, July 03, 2011

Prominent Member Of The Congressional Black Caucus May Face Jail Time

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has formally requested that the FBI begin a criminal investigation into Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA). New documents disclosed in a complaint from the group show that Richardson and members of her staff clearly violated not only congressional ethics rules but federal law by routinely forcing her congressional staff to work on her campaign or risk losing their jobs. She also required staff to perform personal errands, intimidated them 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. “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.”

Internal emails 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 email 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.”

The CREW complaint follows allegations in March by one of Richardson's staffers who alleged that Richardson required official staffers to work on her reelection campaign.

In her March 3, 2011 resignation letter, Maria Angel Macias also claimed Richardson subjected her to “constant verbal and emotional abuse.”

Macias told the Contra Costa Times in a March 14 interview that Richardson required staffers to work on her campaign, a major violation of congressional ethics rules and potentially federal law.

“She would just ask me to call them and tell them to come to the campaign office,” Marcias told the Times, “She would ask me to schedule people (staff members and drivers to accompany Richardson) for campaign fundraisers for other elected officials.”

The odds are that Eric Holder and the Department of Justice are not going to voluntarily launch a criminal investigation on a prominent black Democrat, ( anyone know whatever happened to the investigation of Maxine Waters? ) but Richardson's violations of the law appear to be so egregious and the evidence clear enough that they may not have a choice.

Rep. Richardson has surfaced on these pages before, you might remember, as part of a particularly clueless delegation from the Congressional Black Caucus that made a visit to Fidel Castro's Caribbean gulag and couldn't say enough about how much they loved it and him.

In view of some of her remarks back then, I detailed a little information about another scam she was involved in concerning sweetheart no money down mortgage loans that she managed to walk away from because the lender, Washington Mutual, gave her an unprecedented 'help' that was obviously a deal made under pressure from an influential legislator.

So Laura Richardson is not exactly a stranger to this kind of behavior, to say the least.

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