By Joel Thurtell
This is the third Detroit Free Press story I wrote about misuse of congressional staffers by U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. The first two stories appeared on Nov. 21, 2003 and are republished in the “Conyers series” category of joelontheroad.com with Free Press permission.
Despite denials from Conyers’ spokesmen, congressional payroll records indicate that Conyers legislative aide Glenn Osowski received his congressional paycheck during the time in late 2003 when he was working in Chicago on the campaign of presidential candidate Carol Mosely Braun.
Headline: 2 CONYERS STAFFERS AT CENTER OF INQUIRY
Byline: JOEL THURTELL
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
Memo: SIDEBAR ATTACHED
A congressional committee investigation into U.S. Rep. John Conyers’ use of staff members for political campaign work may focus on the work of two staff members and several key incidents, a Conyers staff member said Friday.
Based on questions the staffers have been asked, the investigation of the
ethics committee of the U.S. House may focus on the campaign work done by
House Judiciary Committee staff attorney Lillian German and Conyers’ former
Washington staffer Glenn Osowski.
German, after her hiring in April 2003, almost immediately began working on
the successful Detroit City Council race of Conyers’ staffer JoAnn Watson. She
also worked in California to help defeat an issue on the ballot in the state’s
special gubernatorial race last fall.
Investigators also are interested in Osowski, a former Conyers aide hired
early in 2003 and assigned primarily to political campaign work, the staffer
Last fall, when Conyers’ office workers believed Osowski was on a
congressional assignment, the Free Press tracked him down at the Chicago
campaign headquarters of then-presidential candidate Carol Moseley Braun. He
was working on Braun’s campaign.
The staff member who talked to the Free Press asked not to be named for fear
of dismissal. The staffer said the investigation began in January, when
committee investigators asked for written statements.
The informal investigation, which could lead to a full-scale probe, follows a
Nov. 21 Free Press article that quoted current and former Conyers staff
members who raised concerns about campaigning, fund-raising and use of office
equipment in Conyers’ offices.
Violations of House rules restricting campaigning on the job can lead to
censure, fines or — in rare cases — expulsion from the House.
Asking for political funds from a federal office is a violation of federal law
and rules of conduct published by the ethics committee.
The staffer who talked to the Free Press on Friday also said that
investigators want to probe “any and all congressional resources used for
campaign purposes and the congressman conducting campaign work from the
Conyers was not available for comment Friday.
Burt Wides, senior minority counsel on the House Judiciary Committee, said
Conyers and his staff are responding to the inquiry “appropriately,” but he
declined to elaborate.
“Committee investigations are supposed to be confidential,” said Wides. “I
wouldn’t want to violate that principle by talking about it.”
As ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee, Conyers is Wides’ boss.
The Free Press quoted staffers saying Conyers routinely assigned his office
workers to work on campaigns for state, county and local candidates, including
the 2002 state Senate campaign of Conyers’ wife Monica.
The Free Press reported that staffers in the 19-term Detroit Democrat’s office
have used government telephones, printers, fax machines and mailing lists to
solicit campaign contributions, organize fund-raisers and canvas for votes.
The probe by the ethics panel, known formally as the House Committee on
Standards of Official Conduct, was reported Thursday in Roll Call, a newspaper
covering Capitol Hill.
Ethics committee spokesman John Vargo said Friday he couldn’t comment.
Stan Brand, Conyers’ attorney in Washington, said, “Calling it an
investigation is a bit overstated. It’s a series of questions the committee
has asked us which we provided information to them in response to.”
“We’re cooperating in their inquiries,” said Brand.
He added, “I think this will all get resolved ultimately in our favor,” said
In late November, the Free Press reported that members of U.S. Rep. John
Conyers’ staff and two Judiciary Committee members who report to him
campaigned on government time and failed to keep track of their hours. Sources
for the report were current and former Conyers staffers who spoke on condition
of anonymity. Highlights:
* In last April’s special election for Detroit City Council, JoAnn Watson,
then on Conyers’ staff, worked on her own campaign during office hours, as did
House Judiciary Committee attorney Lillian German.
* In a special election for Wayne County Commission last June, German and
another Judiciary Committee staffer, Greg Barnes, worked on the campaign of
Keith Williams during office hours.
* Last fall, Conyers’ staffers were asked to transmit from government
computers the names of public officials who could be asked for campaign
donations for Conyers. Working from Williams’ Detroit office, staffer Glen
Osowski prepared mailings to potential contributors, although House rules
forbid use of congressional records for fund-raising.
* Late last year, Osowski was working in Chicago on the then-still-active
presidential campaign of Carol Moseley Braun for president on government time.
* A Conyers staffer and Judiciary Committee staffer worked on a fall 2003
campaign to defeat a California ballot proposal to ban the collection of
Contact JOEL THURTELL at email@example.com.
Members of U.S. Rep. John Conyers’ office are cooperating.