House Ethics Committee Clears Richardson

Posted July 1, 2010 at 4:41pm

Updated: July 1, 10:30 p.m.

The House ethics committee on Thursday dismissed its investigation of Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.), saying that its seven-month review found no evidence that she knowingly accepted an improper gift relating to her mortgage.

The committee began its investigation of Richardson at the recommendation of the Office of Congressional Ethics. The OCE reviews suspected rules violations and recommends investigations to the House ethics committee, formally known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.

The Los Angeles Times reported in July 2009 that OCE investigators were examining transactions involving Richardson’s Sacramento, Calif., home, which was foreclosed on, sold and then returned to the House lawmaker in mid-2008.

The Times reported that OCE investigators contacted real estate investor James York, who had purchased Richardson’s home at auction in 2008 before Washington Mutual repossessed the home and turned it back over to Richardson. York sued, but that lawsuit was settled privately.

The newspaper also reported that the OCE had interviewed Richardson’s neighbors, who have complained about the state of the property and paid both professional gardeners and local children to clean the yard.

House ethics Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and ranking member Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) issued a statement Thursday saying, “Richardson did not knowingly accept a gift from Washington Mutual Bank (Washington Mutual) or violate any applicable standard of conduct” in connection with the mortgage foreclosure and sale of her Sacramento home.

The committee concluded that a mortgage broker submitted fraudulent information about the property without Richardson’s knowledge on her mortgage application. The committee referred the broker to the Justice Department.

“The Committee’s bipartisan report confirms that I have at all times acted in accordance with my ethical duties as a Member of Congress,” Richardson said in a statement Thursday. “I am thankful this is over and behind me and I can continue to do what I enjoy, which is serving the people of California’s 37th District.”

Jennifer Yachnin contributed to this story.