Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 18, 2014

Posts in "Ethics"

November 17, 2014

Saying Farewell to Retiring Obscure Caucus Members

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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

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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.


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September 8, 2014

Spurned Staffer Sends Email Accusing Top Republican of Ethics Violations

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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

bachmann002 081111 330x220 Guilty Plea: Iowa State Senator Paid for Ron Paul Switch

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 thumb 600x306 151 Ethics Investigations Since 2009 — in One Chart

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.

July 16, 2014

Chairman: Ethics Committee Can Only ‘Offer Up Advice’

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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)

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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

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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.

June 20, 2014

Don Young Broke House Rules, Ethics Committee Says

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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

June 19, 2014

‘Ms. Ethics’ Carol Dixon Remembered Fondly (Video)

Carol E. Dixon, director of advice and education for the House Committee on Ethics, died Monday from unknown causes. She was 44.

Dixon had worked at the committee for 11 years. Family and colleagues described her as an excellent baker, devoted aunt, passionate Michigan football fan and sharp legal mind. The leftovers from her famous Christmas parties were the highlight of every holiday season.

Dixon found joy in helping members navigate complicated ethical questions. “She wanted everyone to be their best self. … She really wanted to make a difference. That was important to her,” her cousin and close friend Mary Raihman told CQ Roll Call.

“I think [Dixon] chose ethics because she wanted to be a part of making the institution great and helping particularly young staffers and new members understand the complex rules that they then had to follow,” said Kelle Strickland, chief of staff to Rep. Michael C. Burgess, R-Texas. Strickland added that her close colleague was ”very generous and trustworthy. She worked on the ethics committee and knew how to keep a secret.”

Stephen Dixon told CQ Roll Call his daughter “really cared about what she did. She cared about ethics and she was proud of what she did. .. [She was] really devoted to making the Congress a better place.”

Staffers inside and outside the committee say Dixon’s discretion and meticulous attention to detail made her an invaluable counselor and confidant.

Full story

May 29, 2014

Steve Israel Becomes First House Democratic Leader to Call for Shinseki’s Resignation

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DCCC Chairman Steve Israel of New York wants VA Secretary Shinseki’s resignation. (Tom Williams/Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Steve Israel of New York is the first member of House Democratic leadership to call for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee made his sentiments public during a CNN interview Thursday afternoon.

Shortly thereafter, Israel released an email statement to CQ Roll Call explaining his rationale.

“If it will help fix the problem to clean house, then yes, he should resign,” Israel said, “but my main concern is getting the root of the problem here, and I want to make sure any steps taken actually lead to drastic improvements for our veterans.” Full story

May 23, 2014

Ethics Committee Decides to Investigate Grimm, Then Waits

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The Ethics committee opted to wait until Grimm’s indictment is resolved. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House Ethics Committee announced it established a special subcommittee to investigate Rep. Michael G. Grimm, already under federal indictment for allegations of misconduct, but the subcommittee members unanimously voted to wait as the Feds pursue the case against the New York Republican.

Ethics Chairman Rep. K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, was named chairman of the subcommittee and ranking Democratic Rep. Linda T. Sánchez of California will hold the same role. Also serving on the panel are Ethics members Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., and Ted Deutch, D-Fla.

The committee issued a brief statement Friday suggesting they will hold off in deference to the Justice Department:

Full story

May 14, 2014

Texas Republican Steve Stockman May Face FEC Probe

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Stockman (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Outgoing Rep. Steve Stockman may face legal action from the Federal Elections Commission over failure to pay back political donations after his loss to Sen. John Cornyn in the Texas Republican Senatorial primary.

Stockman reportedly received $5,000 from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s political action committee, earmarked specifically for use in the 2014 general election, not the primary. But since Stockman did not win his Senate primary and will not be running again for his House seat, FEC rules require that he return the money before he dissolves his campaign committee.

Stockman was sent two letters by the FEC last week noting that he cannot terminate his campaign arm, Friends of Congressman Steve Stockman, until he settles up. Full story

May 5, 2014

Ethics Committee Continues Investigation Into Gutierrez

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House Ethics Committee announced Monday that it is continuing an investigation into Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez’s former employment of a lobbyist.

In a 177-page report detailing the charges against the Illinois Democrat, he is accused of improperly paying his former chief of staff, Doug Scofield, more than $590,000 from his Members’ Representational Allowance to train staff. Gutiérrez’s office paid Scofield between $4,500 and $6,000 a month between 2003 and 2013.

In the report, which was prepared by the Office of Congressional Ethics, Gutiérrez is accused of compensating his former chief of staff for “impermissible services.” The OCE report charges that Scofield was reviewing and drafting speeches, drafting letters to administration officials, advising Gutiérrez on legislative strategies, helping set up a district office and generally serving in a capacity beyond what is allowed. Full story

By Matt Fuller Posted at 4:05 p.m.
Democrats, Ethics

May 2, 2014

Congressional Scandals: From Craigslist Sex Solicitations to Jackson Memorabilia, a Well-Worn Path

050214scandals570x242 445x188 Congressional Scandals: From Craigslist Sex Solicitations to Jackson Memorabilia, a Well Worn Path

(Chris Hale/CQ Roll Call Illustration)

Reps. Vance McAllister, R-La., and Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y., are back at work in Washington, vowing not to let their respective scandals — the former was caught kissing a married staffer, the latter faces fraud and tax evasion charges — keep them from representing their districts.

But as some of their predecessors in the House and Senate can attest, it can be tough to compartmentalize in the fishbowl that is the U.S. Capitol.

Here’s a look back at some of the biggest congressional scandals of the past decade or so, and what happened to the lawmakers caught in their own tangled webs, selected to give a glimpse into the potential political fates that could befall Grimm and McAllister. And yes, they are all men.

Full story

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