The House Ethics Committee voted unanimously last week to form a subcommittee to investigate allegations of whether California Democrat Laura Richardson improperly used congressional staff and resources in her 2010 re-election campaign and for other non-official purposes.
Richardson, who is facing a tough re-election battle next year, said in a statement that she “look(s) forward to a full, fair and expeditious inquiry” and that she is “confident that once the subcommittee is able to gather all the facts, and we are permitted to respond, they will conclude positively.” That may be wishful thinking since, as Politico reports, she “mounted an unsuccessful last-minute attempt to prevent a full investigation by writing to all 10 lawmakers on the Ethics Committee.”
The Black lawmaker in her statement also suggested that the investigation may be motivated by racial or gender-based bias, citing “well-publicized” instances of colleagues who sleep in their offices during the week, “saving tens of thousands of dollars personally at taxpayers’ expense.” She said that she planned to explore whether the ethics panel “has engaged in discriminatory conduct ... failing to apply the same standards to or take the same actions against other members — of whom the overwhelming majority are white males.”
In 2009, the panel has investigated five Congressional Black Caucus members for including improperly accepting trips who were cleared because they weren’t aware that the gifts were not permitted. Rep. Charles Rangel last December became the first lawmaker in more 25 years to be censured by the House because of financial improprieties. The panel still must decide whether it will move forward with an investigation into whether Rep. Maxine Waters used her influence as a member of the House Financial Services Committee to encourage the Treasury Department to help a bank in which her husband owned stock. It also is exploring whether Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. offered to raise money for Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange for the Senate seat being vacated by Barack Obama when he won the 2008 presidential election. And, it is looking into whether Rep. Gregory Meeks improperly accepted a $40,000 loan from a Queens real estate developer that he did not disclose.
The sheer number of investigations has caused some Black lawmakers to question whether they’re being targeted, but CBC chairman Emanuel Cleaver says he’s not ready to go there yet.
“I’m not ready to declare that that there is a widespread conspiracy aimed at doing political damage to black members of Congress,” Cleaver said. “I think when you make statements like that you ought to have evidence.”
(Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for It Girl Public Relations)