The House Ethics Committee announced Monday that it is continuing an investigation into Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez's former employment of a lobbyist.
In a 177-page report detailing the charges against the Illinois Democrat, he is accused of improperly paying his former chief of staff, Doug Scofield, more than $590,000 from his Members' Representational Allowance to train staff. Gutiérrez's office paid Scofield between $4,500 and $6,000 a month between 2003 and 2013.
In the report, which was prepared by the Office of Congressional Ethics, Gutiérrez is accused of compensating his former chief of staff for "impermissible services." The OCE report charges that Scofield was reviewing and drafting speeches, drafting letters to administration officials, advising Gutiérrez on legislative strategies, helping set up a district office and generally serving in a capacity beyond what is allowed. According to the report, Scofield left Gutiérrez's office after a 10-year stint as the congressman's chief of staff. Shortly after leaving in 2002, Scofield set up The Scofield Company, which became a registered lobbying entity, and Scofield became a registered lobbyist.
While Scofield signed a contract to provide "non-legislative, general office services," the report details instances where Scofield acted in a manner inconsistent with that heading.
Gutiérrez says in his own testimony that Scofield was the type of person he could call at 1 a.m. to draft a speech for the next day, and, in an email, the congressman writes that his communications director should coordinate absences with Scofield "to ensure that my office always has press and communications' coverage."
While Scofield did not testify before the OCE, emails obtained by the committee show him playing an active role in legislative decision-making.
Scofield sent an email on Nov. 14, 2012, asking staffers what the congressman's next steps were on immigration, inquiring whether there was a reason "we" don't want to contact pro-immigration groups and send out a release saying Gutiérrez was releasing his own immigration bill.
"I don't think we want to be second on this, or give the President too much time to ask everyone to sit around and wait for his plan," Scofield wrote.
While the report may seem damning, Gutierrez was decidedly glass-is-half-full Monday.
He released a statement that started with this cheery, if not misleading, declaration: "Today's announcement by the Committee reveals that it will not convene a special ethics panel."
It is true that the Ethics Committee has not voted to empanel an investigative subcommittee. But that may still be coming. The chairman and ranking member of the Ethics Committee, K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and Linda T. Sánchez, D-Calif., announced they were continuing to gather information. The release of the OCE report was mandated today if the Ethics Committee didn't announce that the committee had voted to empanel an investigative subcommmittee.
Still, Gutiérrez's office was focusing on the positive: The review "does not indicate that any violation has occurred or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee."