California Congresswoman’s Redistricting Shenanigans Catch Eye of Ethics Committee

Olga Pierce
ProPublica / News Report
Published: Thursday 16 February 2012
“The rules allow limited redistricting work on taxpayers’ dime, but working outside the representative’s district and organizing testimony are likely violations.”

California Congresswoman Laura Richardson is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for directing her staff to use government resources for redistricting work, according to a Politico story Feb. 13.

Richardson and her staffers, according to the story, recruited and trained citizens to testify before the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, even providing them with canned testimony, anonymous individuals told Politico.

Asked for comment, Richardson’s attorney sent ProPublica a statement calling the allegations in the Politico story “groundless,” adding that “to date, the House Ethics Committee has not issued any recommendations, conclusions or findings of any kind.”

The statement says Richardson is committed to following the law and House Ethics rules.

The rules allow limited redistricting work on taxpayers’ dime, but working outside the representative’s district and organizing testimony are likely violations. (Here is the fulltextoftherules.)

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission was created by the state’s voters with the promise of removing political influence from the drawing of new district lines — a high-stakes process that can guarantee a representative a safe seat, or virtually ensure defeat in the next election. To that effect, the commission pledged to use citizen testimony — not the wishes of politicians — as its main basis for decision-making.

But Richardson’s alleged tampering with the commission by manipulating public testimony would not have been unique. As ProPublica detailed in December, California’s entire Democratic congressional delegation held meetings in Washington, D.C., to strategize about ways to manipulate the commission. We found other members of Congress using a front group, drummed-up testimony and other means to dupe the commission into drawing the districts they wanted.

In an email obtained by ProPublica, members were told to begin “strategizing about potential future district lines." As we noted, one staffer on California’s delegation sent more than 100 email messages about redistricting. The House Ethics Committee did not respond to our request for comment about the investigation, and whether it may go beyond Richardson.



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4 comments on "California Congresswoman’s Redistricting Shenanigans Catch Eye of Ethics Committee"

aligatorhardt

February 17, 2012 6:55am

The political party of the story subject should be listed when their official activities are in question. Many people vote on party lines and ethics are not equal among all parties. Republicans have been the most common party to use redistricting to corrupt election laws. The fact that the House has taken no action may very well be a purposeful oversight of the offense.

aligatorhardt

February 17, 2012 6:58am

After checking the original story, I see that she is a Democrat.

xplorer59

February 16, 2012 4:37pm

I could not have said it better! Thank you for showing the common sense so lacking in the general public.

pitch1934

February 16, 2012 1:37pm

If it's wrong, it's wrong and should be handled accordingly. Congress need a non-partisan, civil service branch to do it's ethics. They can't police themselves. It is too much to ask for any one to turn on their colleagues in any profession or business. This is why police brutality can run rempant, doctors are not called out for gross errors and traders can rape the nation.