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Ethics Panel Says Laura Richardson Likely Broke Federal Law, House Rules

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo

Updated: 1:46 p.m.

Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) likely broke federal law and House rules when she required her Hill staffers to perform campaign work and obstructed the House Ethics Committee’s investigation of her actions, according to a statement issued by the committee today.

Should the full House adopt the committee’s report — a vote is expected before next week's recess — it would serve as a public reprimand of the two-term lawmaker, who has agreed to pay a $10,000 fine.

The subcommittee investigating Richardson was unanimous in its conclusion that there was “substantial reason to believe” she violated federal law, broke House rules and ignored sections of the Code of Ethics for Government, according to a joint statement issued by Ethics Chairman Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) and ranking member Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.).

In addition Richardson showed “utter disdain” for the ethics process by destroying evidence, attempting to influence witnesses, failing to hand over subpoenaed documents and complaining about being interviewed, an accompanying committee report said.

“Representative Richardson has agreed to a settlement of this House Ethics Committee matter,” the lawmaker’s office confirmed in a statement. “She has agreed to accept a reprimand by the adoption of the Committee report and has agreed to pay a fine. Representative Richardson takes this matter with the utmost seriousness and takes full responsibility for her actions.”

Though Richardson admitted to the allegations in order to reach a settlement, the committee said she continued to exhibit “an utter absence of true remorse” for her actions throughout its investigation.

Richardson’s investigative subcommittee found evidence that she compelled her office staffers to work mandatory shifts on her re-election bid, used House funds to purchase materials that were used in her campaign and then encouraged staffers to misrepresent her actions to the Ethics Committee.

“It is Representative Richardson’s own management, Representative Richardson’s own decisions, and Representative Richardson’s own actions that are responsible for the existence of this matter, the resources they have required, and the damage to the integrity of her office and this institution that they have caused,” the committee’s report said.

The committee also negotiated settlements with two of Richardson’s staffers — Chief of Staff Shirley Cooks and Deputy District Director Daysha Austin — who received letters of reproval for their role in the Congresswoman’s scheme.

The probe of Richardson began just three months after the committee concluded a separate review of an unorthodox financial transaction that allowed the California Democrat to repurchase a home that had fallen into foreclosure.

The committee formed an investigative subcommittee to examine the mortgage case after it was referred by the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, clearing Richardson of wrongdoing in July of 2010.

The back-to-back ethics probes have proven costly for Richardson, who is currently running for re-election in a redrawn California district against fellow Democratic Rep. Janice Hahn.

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