An Ethics Committee investigation concluded Rep. Laura Richardson likely broke federal law and House rules.
“On an almost daily basis for months at a time, Representative Richardson used resources that had been paid for by the American people in order to accomplish not the people’s ends, but her own,” the investigative subcommittee found. “She also imposed on hardworking public servants the unfair and impermissible condition that their duties include service to her campaign. Once the Committee began to investigate this wrongdoing, rather than act to remedy the situation, she sought to obscure it from the Committee’s view.”
Richardson, 50, agreed to the panel’s findings as part of her settlement and will be required to pay a $10,000 fine.
“Representative Richardson takes this matter with the utmost seriousness and takes full responsibility for her actions and those that were done by anyone else under her employ,” a statement issued Wednesday by her Congressional office read.
The statement referred to a “Statement of Views” that the two-term lawmaker submitted to the Ethics Committee for “context and a fuller picture of the resolution to which she has agreed.”
Richardson’s submission, which accuses the committee of repeated procedural violations and the mishandling of witnesses and evidence during the probe, was the focus of an incendiary 16-page report the full Ethics Committee issued along with the subcommittee’s investigatory findings.
Richardson attempted to use her response to undermine the “factual, procedural and legal conclusions underpinning the result we reach today,” the committee said, characterizing her 22-page submission as an attempt to construct “straw men” in order to deflect responsibility for her actions.
Richardson had in fact been provided with “multiple missed opportunities” to convey her side of the story, according to the committee.
Instead, after the investigative subcommittee was convened in November 2011, she ignored requests for documents, destroyed evidence, attempted to influence witnesses and showed “utter disdain” for the entire process, the committee said.
It was not until mid-June that Richardson finally agreed to sit down with ethics investigators after asking that the interview be delayed because of her primary election schedule.
“Moreover, during her interview, Representative Richardson repeatedly made complaints about its length and ultimately demanded that it end so she could participate in an annual Congressional softball game,” the committee said.
Though Richardson arrived on time for the annual charity fundraiser on June 20 that pitted Members of Congress against the press corps, she declined to finish her interview with the Ethics Committee at a later date.
The two senior staffers on whom Richardson relied to relay her messages, Cooks and Deputy District Director Daysha Austin, received separate letters of reproval from the Ethics Committee on Wednesday, though investigators acknowledged they both believed they had been “co-opted” into Richardson’s scheme.
“Richardson relied on a combination of verbal abuse, inequitable official scheduling, and outright intimidation to conscript her district office employees in service of her re-election,” the investigative subcommittee said. “At times, she did so directly, but mostly chose to delegate these tasks to certain members of senior staff, including Ms. Cooks and Ms. Austin, all of whom were subject to the same pressures from Representative Richardson as everyone else.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.