House reprimands Rep. Laura Richardson for ethical misconduct

Posted Aug. 02, 2012, at 7:29 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday voted to reprimand Rep. Laura Richardson, D-Calif., for ethical misconduct.

Richardson agreed to the uncommon discipline, including paying a $10,000 fine out of her own pocket. “I do take these findings very seriously and do accept the responsibility,” she said on the House floor.

The House Ethics Committee unanimously recommended the punishment, saying Richardson improperly pressured her congressional staff to work on her campaign, used taxpayer-funded resources for personal and political activities, and obstructed the investigation.

“She did a disservice to her staff, to her colleagues, and while it is ultimately up to her constituents in California to be the final judge of her actions, I think it’s safe to say that she did a disservice to the hardworking taxpayers from all corners of this country who expect and deserve more from their elected leaders,” said committee chairman Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Ala.

The embarrassing vote comes as Richardson faces a tough race to win re-election against fellow Democratic Rep. Janice Hahn in a newly drawn district.

The House chamber was nearly empty, despite the rare moment, as Ethics Committee members presented the charges, which included engaging in conduct that “brought discredit upon the House.”

The reprimand was approved on a voice vote.

Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., who oversaw the investigation, said that a disabled veteran who worked in Richardson’s office as part of the Wounded Warrior Project wrote in a letter of resignation that the work environment was so hostile that she would “rather be at war in Afghanistan” than continue working for Richardson.

During the investigation, Bonner said, the committee heard “desperate, sometimes emotional, pleas for help” from Richardson staff members.

“I’ve never taken or threatened any action against any staffer who did not volunteer to work on my campaign,” Richardson said Thursday. “There is no doubt that a number of staff felt compelled or coerced to do so. That was not my intent, and I deeply regret that this occurred.”

Richardson, in a filing with the committee, said she accepted the punishment because ending the matter, rather than staging a fight that “would consume many more months and much more of her time and attention, is in the best interests of her constituents and of the House.”

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., the Congressional Black Caucus chairman and a Richardson supporter, said on the House floor, “I know that she regrets the violations and hopes that the reprimand by the House will allow both her and the House to move on to address the great issues facing the nation.”

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©2012 Los Angeles Times

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