By Joel Thurtell
U.S. Rep. Laura Richardson wonders why she has to obey rules that other members have gotten away with breaking.
Richardson, a California Democrat, named a Michigan congressman as a previous flagrant offender who got off scot-free.
Richardson asks why Michigan Democratic U.S. Rep. John Conyers was given a get-out-of-jail-free card for requiring his congressional staffers to do partisan political work on government-paid time while she is being investigated for the same kind of behavior.
She sent a letter to her House inquisitors comparing her case to the investigation of Conyers that resulted from November 21, 2003 Detroit Free Press articles co-written by me about Conyers’ misuse of staff for political and personal work.
According to Politico, “Richardson noted that previous ethics cases based on similar allegations, such as that involving Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), ended with a public letter warning Conyers not to engage in such behavior going forward. Conyers was the subject of a three-year probe by the Ethics Committee for using his staff for improper campaign and personal activities, including babysitting his kids.
Her question is a good one, even though her logic is less than compelling.
Richardson seems to think that if one member is allowed to violate ethics and/or legal requirements, then all members should have the same permission.
In other words, if one congressperson steals taxpayer money or goods, why can’t they all steal government money and resources?
I don’t think her argument will persuade members of the House Ethics Committee to back off their probe of allegations that she assigned her congressional staffers to do political work on the government dime.
Like Richardson, I wonder why Conyers got off with a slap on the wrist.
The most amazing experience for me when I investigated Conyers for the Detroit Free Press in 2003 was the time I phoned the campaign office of Carol Moseley Braun in Chicago and talked to one of her campaign aides who happened to be on the government clock as a congressional staffer for Conyers.
The aide was supposed to be organizing a meeting of Conyers’ constituents in Dearborn, but Conyers assigned him to do campaign work for Braun.
I verified that the aide received his Congressional pay check for the period when he was playing political hack in Chicago.
Another Michigan congressman, Charles Diggs, went to prison for assigning his congressional aides to work for his family funeral home on government-paid time.
Among a variety of felonies, the feds nailed Diggs for mail fraud, because he signed time cards for the congressional/mortuary employees and mailed them to Washington, DC for processing.
Wonder who signed the time cards for that Conyers staffer whose efforts were diverted to a campaign office in Chicago?
The only difference I can see between Diggs and Conyers is that Diggs went to prison.