Don’t let your babies grow up to be politicians 

It’s quite an accomplishment to be referred to as "the most ethically challenged member of Congress," even with qualifiers.

But Rep. Laura Richardson, D-Long Beach, might well deserve it. She was given that epithet by the left-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, D.C., which this week called on the FBI to investigate the congresswoman.

The group also released a damning set of emails allegedly sent within her office and shared by former staff. If genuine, they could serve as evidence that Richardson has been using taxpayer-funded staff to raise money for her campaign, not to mention treating them like her personal property.

Richardson was elected to Congress in 2007 after an ugly special-election campaign against a since-deceased Hispanic Democrat. ("No one can take our seat from us," the politician told a black crowd in Compton.) She subsequently became famous for defaulting on home mortgages whilst simultaneously loaning hundreds of thousands of dollars to her political campaigns, and for tying up two emergency helicopters for a tour that included her entire 19-member staff.

Richardson’s spokesman, Ray Zaccaro, informed me in a written statement that the group’s charges are false: "Nothing in the CREW letter or its exhibits supports the allegations that Congresswoman Richardson ever forced or coerced members of her staff to engage in campaign activity."

But I read the emails, and I’m not so sure. For example, do you suppose her chief of staff was acting alone when she wrote in late September that "all staff are required to attend Ms. Richardson’s [fundraising] event. Bring spouses and tell interns they have to be there as well." In another email, a staffer complains that he is being coerced by one of his colleagues to attend the event and take photographs when he had made other plans. He even threatens to resign and "[take] action against this office through House leadership."

Among the materials released by CREW were 21 emails suggesting that a staffer was out running personal errands for Richardson — mostly picking up dry cleaning, but also taking her mom to the portrait gallery.

In another email exchange, an aide named Thorne Maginnis requests a leave of absence to help in one of the hot-spot House campaigns in last year’s election. He had gone to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee looking for ways to help, and they had directed him to an open-seat race in West Tennessee. Richardson exploded upon finding out.

"I am disturbed by this," she said. "I never authorized any staff to communicate to the DCCC. I certainly never authorized staff to consider a specific seat. Those are my decisions. The direction was if someone was interested to see me not to go and do what he has done."

So now her taxpayer-funded staff is her personal property, whose off-the-clock political activities and freedom of speech and association she can control. (Perhaps the congresswoman needs to have someone explain to her the First and 13th amendments to the Constitution.)

Perhaps the FBI will take CREW’s advice and investigate. Or perhaps it won’t. Either way, this story — like those of Anthony Weiner, John Ensign and many others — is bringing congressional prestige to new lows.

An October Rasmussen poll found that only 17 percent of parents want their children to be politicians. Only 31 percent said they would run for Congress themselves if given a decent chance of winning. It’s a sign that most Americans have their priorities straight — even if most members of Congress do not.


Columnist David Freddoso is The Washington Examiner’s online opinion editor.

About The Author

David Freddoso

David Freddoso came to the Washington Examiner in June 2009, after serving for nearly two years as a Capitol Hill-based staff reporter for National Review Online. Before writing his New York Times bestselling book, The Case Against Barack Obama, he spent three years assisting Robert Novak, the legendary Washington... more
Pin It

Speaking of Opinion, Op Eds

More by David Freddoso

Latest in Guest Columns

© 2019 The San Francisco Examiner

Website powered by Foundation