The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) announced Tuesday that it has asked the FBI to launch an investigation of Rep. Laura Richardson (D-California). It has obtained internal e-mails that it says proves that Richardson forced her congressional staff to volunteer to work on and contribute to her campaign. She denies the charges. CREW also is alleging that Richardson solicited contributions on federal property and regularly used her staff to run personal errands for her, which violates federal law.
“Rep. Richardson presented staffers with an odious choice: work on her campaign or lose their jobs,” said CREW executive director Melanie Sloan in a statement. “Astonishingly, in just three short terms, Rep. Richardson has been the subject of at least two ethics investigations. Now a criminal investigation should be added to the list. Although there is some competition for the title, Rep. Richardson may well be the most ethically challenged member of Congress.”
In 2009, the House ethics committee cleared Richardson following an investigation of charges that she improperly benefited when a bank placed the sale of her foreclosed home on hold. The panel also interviewed her staff last November after complaints of abusive behavior surfaced.
“Nothing in the CREW letter or its exhibits support the allegations that Congresswoman Richardson ever forced or coerced members of her staff to engage in campaign activity,” her communications director Ray Zaccaro said in a statement. “As this office has previously confirmed, staff were interviewed by the House ethics committee in November 2010. The congresswoman and her staff have fully cooperated.”
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