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Chu Chastised for Interfering in House Ethics Investigation

(Bill Clark/Roll Call File Photo)

Concluding a probe it launched in March 2012 into allegations that Rep. Judy Chu tasked her official staff with campaign work while they were on the clock, the House Ethics Committee rebuked the California Democrat Thursday for interfering with its investigation.  

Investigators learned a staffer had drafted a memo for an August 2011 fundraising lunch at the direction of Chu's legislative director. They also discovered a second staffer spent several hours sifting through emails to Chu's campaign account that were sent in response to a "military hazing" email. The committee later determined Chu didn't know about the improper work, and therefore had not violated House rules. But investigators learned over the course of the probe that the three-term congresswoman talked to her staff about the probe, violating House rules related to conduct.  

In a 17-page report, the committee details a "troubling" series of conversations and email that took place on March 19, 2012, the day after the Ethics Committee notified Chu's office of the investigation. After a staffer expressed concerns to Chu's chief of staff about the probe, Chu tried to offer reassurance. Additionally, it appears Chu tried to cover up the March 20 email exchange.  

She later apologized for the inappropriate contact with her staffers, but it wasn't enough to keep Ethics Chairman K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and ranking member Linda T. Sanchez, D-Calif., from publicly rebuking her actions. Their two-page letter was posted Thursday.  

“The Committee acknowledged that my intention was to ease the staff member’s anxiety and that I expressed regret for this one moment of contact," Chu said in a lengthy statement responding to the letter, which included an explanation for the behavior.  

‘When I became aware of these issues, I put strong measures in place to ensure that staff understand the separation between official work and volunteer work," she said. "This includes additional ethics training, requiring signed forms acknowledging the separation of roles, and consistent reminders that the work is voluntary. I will continue to uphold and enforce these strong measures.”  

Chu was re-elected to a fourth term in November. The committee has closed its probe.  

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Topics: ethics