"Cyniquian" Level Poster
Post Number: 2660
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|Posted on Saturday, December 30, 2006 - 09:31 pm: ||
Conyers accepts responsibility for possible ethics violations
By Jonathan E. Kaplan and Jackie Kucinich
December 30, 2006
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) has "accepted responsibility" for possibly violating House rules by requiring his official staff to perform campaign-related work, according to a statement quietly released by the House ethics committee late Friday evening.
The top Republican and Democratic members on the ethics panel, Reps. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and Howard Berman (D-Calif.), said in a statement that Conyers acknowledged a "lack of clarity" in communicating what was expected of his official staff and that he accepted responsibility for his actions.
"[Conyers] agreed to take a number of additional, significant steps to ensure that his office complies with all rules and standards regarding campaign and
personal work by congressional staff," they stated. "We have concluded that this matter should be resolved through the issuance of this public statement."
The finding by the ethics panel could spark debate, and perhaps eclipse, the first week of the incoming-Democratic majority’s plans to change the House ethics rules, as well as raise questions about Conyers’ standing to chair the Judiciary Committee.
On Dec. 14, Conyers sent a letter to his supporters from his campaign website announcing that he had been elected as chairman-designate of the House Judiciary Committee. Berman is the second-ranking Democrat on the panel.
A spokesman for Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Conyers will remain chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
The House ethics committee conditions that Conyers has agreed to must be complied with throughout the 110th Congress.
Conyers had alarmed Democrats, poised to recapture the House after 12 years in the minority, by indicating that he would begin impeachment proceedings against President Bush.
In May, a spokesman for Pelosi, said that she told her Democratic colleagues in a closed meeting, "that impeachment is off the table; she is not interested in pursuing it."
As House Republicans and Democrats prepare for former President Gerald Ford’s funeral and the transfer of power set to take place next week, aides to Pelosi were not available for comment.
The ethics inquiry began in December, 2003 when former staff members complained to the ethics panel, formerly named the House Committee on Standards and Official Conduct, that Conyers had required his official staffers to work on campaigns, babysit his children, and run personal errands. Conyers subsequently hired Stanley Brand, a well-respected defense lawyer with a long track record of defending public officials implicated in corruption cases.
In 2003, Reps. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.) and Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) headed the ethics committee.
The Hill reported last March that two former Conyers’ aides alleged that he repeatedly violated House ethics rules by requiring aides to work on local and state
campaigns, and babysit and chauffeur his children. Deanna Maher, a former deputy chief of staff in the Detroit office, and Sydney Rooks, a former legal counsel in his district office, shared numerous letters, memos, e-mails, handwritten notes and expense reports with The Hill.
They also sent the same materials to the House ethics panel, the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office. House rules allow the chairman and ranking member of the ethics panel to initiate informal inquiries into allegations of misconduct in the absence of a formal complaint.
Hastings and Berman said in their statement that Conyers provided information and documents to the panel. Committee staff also interviewed witnesses. They also said that Conyers agreed to take six steps to ensure that the matter remain closed. First, he agreed to prohibit his personal congressional staff, other than his chief of staff, from engaging in any voluntary campaign-related work in the 110th Congress unless that staff members takes a leave of absence and obtains prior approval from the wthics Committee.
He also must take several additional steps to make it abundantly clear to his government-paid aides that they need not work on campaigns to gain employment or stay employed in his office. In addition, he will have to maintain a detailed time-keeping system that he implemented during the course of the committee’s inquiry.
"Provided that the above requirements are complied with, this matter will remain closed, and the Committee will take no further action on it," Hastings and Berman said.
The following is the text of the House ethics committee statement regarding Conyers:
December 29, 2006
Statement of Chairman Doc Hastings and Ranking Minority Member Howard L. Berman Regarding Representative John Conyers
The Chairman and Ranking Minority Member, pursuant to Committee Rule 18(a), initiated an informal inquiry in December 2003 into reports that members of the congressional staff of Representative John Conyers had performed campaign activity on official time and in some instances using official resources, and that some staff members may have been compelled to do campaign work or personal work for Representative Conyers. The assertions in the reports, if true, could implicate a number of laws and House rules applicable to Members, including: House Rule 23, clause 1 (requiring the conduct of a Member or employee to reflect creditably on the House of representatives); House Rule 23, clause 8 (requiring that congressional staff perform official duties commensurate with compensation); 31 U.S.C. § 1301(a) and corresponding regulations of the Committee on House Administration (providing that official funds may be used only for the purposes appropriated); and 18 U.S.C § 606 (prohibiting adverse personnel action or intimidation to secure a "contribution of money or other valuable thing" including services, for a political purpose). Committee Rule 18(a) permits the Committee, in the absence of a filed complaint, to consider "any information in its possession indicating that a Member, officer, or employee may have committed a violation of the Code of Official Conduct or any law, rule, regulation, or other standard of conduct . . ." The Chairman and Ranking Minority Member may jointly gather additional information concerning such a potential violation unless and until an investigative subcommittee is established. During the course of their inquiry, the Chairman and Ranking Member asked for and received information, including documents, from several sources, including Representative Conyers. Committee staff also interviewed witnesses regarding the allegations. In the course of providing information to the Committee, Representative Conyers acknowledged what he characterized as a "lack of clarity" in his communications with staff members regarding their official duties and responsibilities, and accepted responsibility for his actions. Representative Conyers also provided the Committee with documents indicating that he had begun taking steps to provide clearer guidance to staff regarding the requirement that campaign work and official work be separate. After reviewing the information gathered during the inquiry, and in light of Representative Conyers’ cooperation with the inquiry, we have concluded that this matter should be resolved through the issuance of this public statement and the agreement by Representative Conyers to take a number of additional, significant steps to ensure that his office complies with all rules and standards regarding campaign and personal work by congressional staff. Representative Conyers has agreed to the following conditions:
1. Prohibiting his personal congressional staff (other than his Chief of Staff) from performing any campaign-related work, including work done on a voluntary basis, during the 110th Congress, unless the staff member takes a paid position on his campaign while on leave without pay status and obtains prior written approval from the Committee.
2. Informing staff members in writing of the prohibition set forth above against the voluntary performance of campaign work.
3. Distributing a memorandum to each member of his personal congressional staff which clearly sets forth all House rules concerning (1) the performance of campaign and other non-official work by congressional staff members and (2) the prohibition against the performance of any campaign-related work being conducted in either his congressional or district offices. Additionally, this memorandum will explicitly state that the performance of campaign or other non-official work by staff members may not be required as a condition of their employment.
4. Directing that meetings of his personal congressional staff be held annually in which the House rules concerning staff participation in campaign activities are discussed and explained. In addition, a description of these rules will be made a part of the orientation for all new staff employees.
5. Continuing to maintain the detailed time-keeping system initiated by Rep. Conyers during the course of the Committee’s inquiry.
6. Requiring that all members of his congressionalstaff attend a briefing conducted by Committee counsel on the application of, and compliance with, applicable House rules concerning the performance of campaign and other non-official work by congressional staff members.
Provided that the above requirements are complied with, this matter will remain closed, and the Committee will take no further action on it.
Post Number: 230
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|Posted on Sunday, December 31, 2006 - 01:09 am: ||
Mzuri, I just replied to your email from this morning.
AALBC .com Platinum Poster
Post Number: 3239
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|Posted on Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - 11:56 am: ||
That's the end of all the impeachment talk.