Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 19, 2015

Posts in "Ethics"

April 1, 2015

Immigration Advocates Rush to Menendez’s Defense

Bob Menendez

Fellow immigration overhaul advocates remain behind Menendez. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Two longtime allies released statements of support within minutes of the announcement of New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez’s 14-count federal indictment Wednesday.

Illinois Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez, a fellow Democrat, and America’s Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry both praised the Garden State senator’s character and his work on issues important to the immigrant community. Full story

March 19, 2015

Boehner, Pelosi Downplay Schock, Weigh In on Clinton

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House’s top Republican and Democrat addressed Hillary Rodham Clinton’s email scandal and Aaron Schock’s surprise resignation during their weekly news conferences Thursday.

Both seemed more concerned about the former Cabinet secretary’s struggle to justify her home-brew approach to handling official email during and after her tenure at the State Department than with the ethical lapses that led to Schock’s decision earlier this week to announce his resignation. Full story

December 30, 2014

Kevin McCarthy, Ben Ray Luján Among Capitol Hill’s Big Winners in 2014

 House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., participates in the press conference announcing House GOP leadership for upcoming session of Congress on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

McCarthy was one of 2014’s big winners. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Not every member of Congress had an A+ year.

Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., became the first majority leader in decades to go down in a primary; Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., only barely avoided being explicitly implicated for campaign finance fraud.

Full story

Boehner Commends Grimm for Announcing Resignation (Updated)

Grimm's resignation to become effective Jan. 5. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Grimm’s resignation to become effective Jan. 5. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:21 p.m. | Rep. Michael G. Grimm’s quiet announcement late Monday night that he would resign his congressional seat pleased House GOP leadership.

The New York Republican, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion last week, made an “honorable decision,” House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a brief, two-sentence statement Tuesday morning.

“I know it was made with the best interests of his constituents and the institution in mind, and I appreciate his years of service in the House,” Boehner stated, responding to Grimm’s announcement that he would step down from Congress, effective Jan. 5 — one day before the 114th Congress is scheduled to commence.

Under the terms of a plea agreement, Grimm is set to be sentenced by a federal judge on June 8 for causing the filing of a false and fraudulent tax return. He pleaded guilty on Dec. 23 to the one charge of a 20-count indictment, and said, at the time, he would not step down.

Despite the vow, Democratic insiders had been urging former Rep. Michael E. McMahon, D-N.Y., to consider running for the seat. McMahon confirmed to CQ Roll Call last week that he was not ruling out a bid.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will determine the date of the special election to fill Grimm’s seat. According to the NYS Board of Elections, Cuomo can set the special election for any time. However, the election must take place within 70-80 days of when Cuomo issues a proclamation announcing a special election date.

In a statement released by his office, Grimm said he was making the decision to step down after “much thought and prayer.”

“This decision is made with a heavy heart, as I have enjoyed a very special relationship and closeness with my constituents, whom I care about deeply,” he said. “The events which led to this day did not break my spirit, nor the will of the voters. However, I do not believe that I can continue to be 100% effective in the next Congress, and therefore, out of respect for the Office and the people I so proudly represent, it is time for me to start the next chapter of my life.”

Grimm also thanked his constituents for their “love and support” over the past few difficult months.

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report. 

This post was updated to clarify the special election process in New York State.

Related:

Ex-Congressman Considers Seeking Grimm’s Seat

Rep. Michael Grimm Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion (Updated)

Pelosi: Boehner Has to Oust Michael Grimm (Updated)

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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By Hannah Hess Posted at 10:47 a.m.
Ethics, John Boehner

December 29, 2014

Report: Michael Grimm Could Resign This Week (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 10:46 p.m. | Rep. Michael G. Grimm intends to resign from the House after pleading guilty to tax evasion, according to local media reports.

The New York Republican’s decision to step down, first reported by the New York Daily News, would be a reversal of his pledge last week to remain in office despite pleading guilty to a felony charge for which he could face time in prison.

Late Monday evening, a senior House GOP aide familiar with conversations told CQ Roll Call that Grimm plans to leave office before the start of the 114th Congress, which is scheduled to commence on Jan. 6.

Full story

December 23, 2014

Rep. Michael Grimm Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion (Updated)

UNITED STATES - JULY 11: Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., walks to the Capitol for a vote on Friday, July 11, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Grimm said he won’t step down, despite pleading guilty to a felony tax evasion charge Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 2:21 p.m. | NEW YORK — Rep. Michael G. Grimm said he won’t step down, despite pleading guilty Tuesday to one of the 20 felony tax fraud charges he’s been battling since April — immediately raising questions about whether the New York Republican will be forced to resign his seat in Congress.

A two-term lawmaker who won re-election in November by steadfastly maintaining his innocence, Grimm entered a Brooklyn courthouse on Tuesday afternoon and admitted to tax evasion in connection to the health food restaurant he owned and operated prior to serving in Congress. Full story

November 17, 2014

Saying Farewell to Retiring Obscure Caucus Members

Pastor, seen here in 2008 with then-Rep. Ben Chandler, was always a behind-the-scenes kind of guy.

Pastor, left, seen here in 2008 with then-Rep. Ben Chandler, is a member of the Obscure Caucus because he’s always been a behind-the-scenes kind of guy. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

At least two lawmakers are disappearing from the CQ Roll Call Obscure Caucus after the 113th Congress wraps at the end of this year — and you may not have noticed them at all.

Both are men who have mostly dodged the spotlight, assuming a low-key approach to their terms in federal office that favors building their reputations at work with their colleagues, little or no tweeting and distance from cable-news pundits.

As our team noted when last publishing this list, inclusion in the caucus isn’t meant as mockery or criticism. Members tend to climb the ranks while putting their heads down and focusing on parochial concerns or constituent services. Just because they’re not inclined to grab C-SPAN cameras and wink to fans back home after wins on the House floor like an overzealous soccer star doesn’t mean they haven’t made an impact.

To be considered, lawmakers must have served at least two full terms and have kept the self-promotion to a minimum. Senators aren’t included.

These are the Obscure Caucus veterans who are retiring.

Full story

September 9, 2014

Former House Budget Committee Chairman to Head Credit Union Group

CQ File

Nussle, a former House Budget Committee chairman, is the new president of the nation’s largest association of credit unions. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Another press release announcing another longtime former lawmaker taking another high-profile lobbying gig.

Just another day in Washington, D.C.

The Credit Union National Association, the nation’s largest trade group for credit unions, says former Iowa congressman Jim Nussle, who served eight terms and also worked in the second Bush White House as director of the Office of Management and Budget, has been named president and CEO.

“After an exhaustive search, in which nearly 100 highly qualified candidates were considered, the CUNA Board has unanimously accepted and certified the executive search committee’s recommendation of Jim as the next chief executive of our association,” said CUNA Chairman Dennis Pierce.

Nussle, 54, served in the House from 1991-2007 as a Republican from Iowa’s 1st and 2nd congressional districts. From 2001-06, he served as chairman of the House Budget Committee.

He joined the Bush White House after an unsuccessful bid for the Iowa governorship.

Since then, he’s helped found Growth Energy, a pro-ethanol trade association and The Nussle Group, a public affairs consulting firm.

This YouTube clip captures one of his most memorable moments on the floor of Congress.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=CR_YA2HFS5o

 

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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September 8, 2014

Spurned Staffer Sends Email Accusing Top Republican of Ethics Violations

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A former staffer for McMorris Rodgers is accusing the fourth-ranked Republican in the House of impropriety. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A former communications director for House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers sent reporters a 1,959-word email Monday accusing the Washington Republican of “retribution” for in connection with an ethics complaint against her office — a serious charge that is the latest alleged impropriety in an ongoing Ethics Committee investigation.

Todd Winer, the former communications director for McMorris Rodgers and, more recently, for Rep. Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho, allegedly brought a complaint against McMorris Rodgers in July 2013 for using taxpayer-funded staff and resources in her bid to become conference chairwoman. The Office of Congressional Ethics referred the case to the Ethics Committee in February, and the Ethics Committee said it was continuing to investigate the matter in March.

Winer called CQ Roll Call after this story was published to deny he was the source of the original complaint.

Since the March announcement, there hasn’t been much public movement on the investigation and Winer, who was working for Labrador, stayed silent.

That is, until now. Full story

August 27, 2014

Guilty Plea: Iowa State Senator Paid for Ron Paul Switch

Bachmann was the front-runner in Iowa in summer 2011. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Bachmann was Iowa’s presidential front-runner in summer 2011. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A former Iowa state senator pleaded guilty to concealing payments he received from former Rep. Ron Paul’s presidential campaign to switch his support from Rep. Michele Bachmann.

Kent Sorenson, 42, of Milo, Iowa, entered the guilty plea for one count of causing a federal campaign committee to falsely report its expenditures and one count of obstruction of justice.

According to a Department of Justice release, Sorenson admitted he had supported one campaign for the 2012 presidential election, but from October to December 2011, “he met and secretly negotiated with a second political campaign to switch his support to that second campaign in exchange for concealed payments that amounted to $73,000.”

Full story

July 24, 2014

Ethics Investigations Since 2009 — in One Chart

The Office of Congressional Ethics recently released its second-quarter report for 2014, and in the middle is a pie graph that gives congressional nerds some insight into what ethical lapses the OCE has been looking into since its inception.

The chart tracks preliminary investigations conducted by the independent ethics office, and, as the graph illustrates, the plurality of investigations since February 2009 — 46 percent — have involved campaign activities.

2Q_2014_Types.jpg

The OCE reports it has conducted 137 preliminary investigations since 2009, with 49 of those cases transmitted to the Ethics Committee for review.

In addition to the pie chart, the OCE’s quarterly report also reveals that the Ethics Committee is supposed to name two members under investigation on Friday, though no details of the investigation are expected to be released and the Ethics Committee will likely vote to take an additional 45 days to consider the matter.

The OCE also revealed in the quarterly report it voted to refer an entity to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for failing to register under the Lobbyist Disclosure Act.

By Matt Fuller Posted at 4:29 p.m.
Ethics

July 16, 2014

Chairman: Ethics Committee Can Only ‘Offer Up Advice’

Conaway (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Conaway says the panel’s job is to enforce the House rules. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Open government advocates and congressional watchdogs, frustrated with what they decry as a culture of corruption on Capitol Hill, would like to see the House Ethics Committee take more aggressive action on cleaning up Congress.

But the panel’s chairman, K. Michael Conaway of Texas, says it’s not the Ethics Committee’s job to bring forward a more ethical House.

“The members themselves bring forth an ethical House,” Conaway told CQ Roll Call in a recent hallway interview. “The committee itself is just trying to do two things: one, offer up advice to help folks stay inside the white lines, and then when somebody doesn’t, deal with that.”

The Ethics Committee has been in the spotlight again recently, flip-flopping — under pressure — on a disclosure rule for privately-funded travel that the bipartisan panel had quietly dropped.

Government accountability groups, such as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said Congress needs more disclosure, not less.

But Conaway, who earlier this month defended the attempt to loosen disclosure rules, said the committee is not “in and of itself” responsible for producing a higher ethical standard. “The members are responsible for how ethical the House is, and, quite frankly, how ethical the House is perceived to be by the general public.”

The Texas Republican, who is widely expected to trade his Ethics gavel for the Agriculture chairmanship next Congress, said the legacy of the Ethics Committee under his guidance would be, “that we did the work well, and, for the most part, stayed out of the headlines.” Full story

July 1, 2014

Pelosi, Government Watchdogs Slam Ethics Committee Disclosure Change (Updated)

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Pelosi is critical of new rules on House travel. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 2:58 p.m. | Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is calling on the House Ethics Committee to reverse a change regarding travel disclosure requirements, characterizing the new rule as a step in the direction of less transparency.

The statement came Tuesday afternoon, after a National Journal report on a change to members’ annual financial disclosure forms. Under the new guidance, members do not have to say on their yearly disclosure forms what trips they took and how much they cost.

Members still have to get pre-approval from the Ethics Committee before taking privately funded trips, and they have to fill out a post-travel disclosure form 15 days after a trip; that information is available in searchable form on the House Clerk’s website.

But Pelosi said Tuesday that while the Ethics Committee seems to want to simplify the disclosure process, “Congress must always move in the direction of more disclosure, not less.”

“If the Ethics Committee does not act, then we will call upon the Speaker to allow a vote on legislation to reverse this decision,” Pelosi said in her statement. “In the meantime, Members are encouraged to disclose such trips to both the Clerk and in their annual disclosures.”

But Speaker John A. Boehner’s staff didn’t think Pelosi or her staff had done their research.

A spokesman for Boehner, Michael Steel, said Pelosi’s staff “needs to talk to her representative on the Ethics Committee, who signed off on this bipartisan change to reduce duplicative paperwork.”

In a rare public statement, the Ethics Committee staff director, Tom Rust, noted that members still needed prior approval from the Ethics Committee and still needed to file paperwork after the trip.

“Neither of those requirements has been changed or diluted in any way,” Rust said.

He also noted that it was the Committee’s nonpartisan staff who recommended the change to the financial disclosure forms. “The Committee adopted these changes and publicly highlighted them on page 2 of the financial disclosure instructions, which were provided to all financial disclosure filers and posted on the Committee’s public web site months ago,” Rust said. “The Committee is committed to effective and efficient public disclosure, and will continue to look for opportunities to improve the public filings required of Members and staff.”

But even before the Ethics Committee could defend itself, government watchdog groups were already having a field day with the new guidance.

Melanie Sloan, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, called the change a “blatant attempt to avoid accountability.”

“The only Americans who would possibly be in favor of this change are members of Congress,” Sloan said in a release.

On the phone Tuesday, Sloan explained that she doesn’t believe the clerk’s office forms are as easily accessible as the financial disclosure forms. She also wasn’t buying the explanation that the annual forms were duplicative and therefore unnecessary, noting in an ironic tone that, “there’s never any duplication in the government.”

In 2007, the House mandated that members disclose their travel to the House clerk. Before that, the yearly report was the only official reporting mechanism available to the public.

Part of the reasoning for the Ethics Committee change may have its roots in those House rules adopted in 2007. House Rule XXV states that these trips should be considered gifts to the House, not individual members.

Still, Sloan wasn’t buying the argument.

“Whatever explanation they’re giving, the point is to decrease the accountability for these trips,” she said.

 

June 26, 2014

Ethics Committee Defers Action on Grimm

Michael Grimm dodges an ethics bullet in the case of the balcony-tossing threat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Grimm dodges an ethics bullet — for now — in the case of the balcony-tossing threat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

At the request of the Justice Department, House Ethics Committee has deferred any action on Rep. Michael G. Grimm for telling a reporter on the night of the State of the Union that he would throw him off the Cannon House Office Building balcony for attempting to ask the New York Republican about the federal investigation into alleged campaign finance violations.

The panel announced Wednesday evening that it had voted to pass on the matter at this time after receiving the request from the Justice Department, adding that it would check in with the public at least once a year if it continues to defer action. Full story

By Emma Dumain Posted at 10:36 a.m.
Ethics

June 20, 2014

Don Young Broke House Rules, Ethics Committee Says

Don Young

Don Young is a Republican from Alaska. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Don Young, currently the fourth longest-serving House member, violated rules when he used campaign funds for personal purposes and accepted improper gifts, a House Ethics Committee report said in a letter of reproval Friday.

The report, which the Ethics Committee unanimously approved, comes after a years-long investigation by the Committee and the Department of Justice into allegations that Young, over the course of 12 years, improperly accepted free trips, lodging, meals, even a pair of $434 Le Chameau hunting boots.

“Representative Young also violated House Rules and other laws, rules, and standards of conduct by failing to report certain gifts on his Financial Disclosure Statements,” the report said. Full story

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