The government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington released new documents Tuesday suggesting Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) forced her Capitol Hill staffers to work on her political campaign, make political contributions and run personal errands in violation of federal law. The group asked the FBI to investigate the Congresswoman, who has been the subject of prior ethics investigations.
Based on news reports and internal communications, Richardson apparently required staff to attend political fundraisers, work on her re-election campaign “under threat of termination” and coordinate campaign events from her House office, according to a letter sent to the assistant director in charge of the FBI Washington Field Office by CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan.
“Rep. Richardson’s conduct suggests she believes laws such as those protecting federal employees from being coerced into campaign activities and requiring House resources be used only for official purposes do not apply to her,” Sloan wrote.
At press time, Richardson’s office had not commented on the matter.
It isn’t the first time the California Democrat has landed in hot water. In November, Richardson’s office confirmed that the House Ethics Committee had “interviewed staff but has not launched an investigation” into allegations that mirror those described in CREW’s complaint. It was just last summer that the committee completed a seven-month investigation of Richardson’s finances and concluded that she had not violated House rules when she participated in an unorthodox transaction that allowed her to repurchase a home that had entered foreclosure. The status of a possible second Ethics Committee inquiry is unknown.
“The fact that this matter already appears to be under review by the House Ethics Committee should not deter the FBI from conducting its own inquiry,” Sloan wrote. “The conduct described by members of Rep. Richardson’s staff is criminal, it does not merely violate House rules. Further, even at the best of times, the House Ethics Committee is reluctant to aggressively investigate its own members.”
Politically, Richardson is facing trouble back home as well. Though new districts based on last year’s census will not be finalized until August, the first draft map released earlier this month by California’s redistricting commission split Richardson’s previous district in half. Both she and Ethics ranking member Linda Sánchez (D) now reside in a newly drawn Long Beach district. California state Sen. Alan Lowenthal has already announced he will run in that district. California Assemblyman Isadore Hall has said he will run in a district to the west, meaning Richardson will face a competitive Democratic primary in whichever district she chooses to run.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.