Ethics Committee Weighing Gutierrez Case

Committee will determine whether staff contract broke House rules.

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 05: U.S. Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) speaks during day two of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 5, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC that will run through September 7, will nominate U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. 
National Journal
Billy House
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Billy House
March 20, 2014, 11:12 a.m.

House eth­ics watch­dogs said Thursday they are re­view­ing a mat­ter in­volving Rep. Lu­is Gu­ti­er­rez, one of the Con­gress’s most re­cog­niz­able and en­er­get­ic cham­pi­ons of im­mig­ra­tion re­form, but de­clined to provide any de­tails.

Pub­lished re­ports dat­ing from last sum­mer have ques­tioned pay­ments by Gu­ti­er­rez, an Illinois Demo­crat, of more than $500,000 over 10 years to a Chica­go lob­by­ist, who used to be his chief of staff, to do vari­ous jobs for his con­gres­sion­al of­fice.

USA Today re­por­ted that Doug Scofield stepped down as Gu­ti­er­rez’s chief of staff in 2002, but was paid sev­er­al thou­sand dol­lars a month as a con­tract­or to train staff, re­view and draft news re­leases, help pub­li­cize Gu­ti­er­rez’s activ­it­ies, and handle oth­er tasks. Soon after the pa­per raised the is­sue, Gu­ti­er­rez’s of­fice dis­con­tin­ued the con­tract with Scofield.

The an­nounce­ment from House Eth­ics Com­mit­tee Chair­man Mike Con­away and rank­ing Demo­crat Linda Sanc­hez did not men­tion the mat­ter spe­cific­ally. The case was re­ferred to the com­mit­tee in Decem­ber by the in­de­pend­ent Of­fice of Con­gres­sion­al Eth­ics, after it con­duc­ted its own in­quiry.

Un­der House rules, the com­mit­tee now has 45 days — un­til May 5 — to de­cide wheth­er it will ex­pand its re­view by em­pan­el­ing a spe­cial in­vest­ig­at­ive sub­com­mit­tee. Such a pan­el would form­ally con­sider wheth­er Gu­ti­er­rez broke House rules and, if so, pos­sibly re­com­mend pun­ish­ment.

“The OCE re­fer­ral to the House Com­mit­tee on Eth­ics relates to wheth­er a long-stand­ing con­tract was al­low­able un­der House rules,” said Douglas Rivlin, a spokes­man for the 11-term con­gress­man from West Chica­go. “The con­tract for ser­vices was re­viewed and ap­proved by the House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives and sub­mit­ted for re­new­al each Con­gress for 10 years. It was con­sist­ently and prop­erly re­por­ted. Rep. Gutiér­rez can­celled the con­tract last year.”

Rivlin ad­ded in his state­ment: “Rep. Gutiér­rez co­oper­ated fully with the OCE dur­ing its re­view and will con­tin­ue to do so with the com­mit­tee. As the com­mit­tee has noted, an OCE re­fer­ral does not in­dic­ate that any vi­ol­a­tion has oc­curred or re­flect a judg­ment on be­half of the com­mit­tee.”

The OCE would not com­ment on the case Thursday, and a re­port provided with its Dec. 23 re­fer­ral of the Gu­ti­er­rez case to the Eth­ics Com­mit­tee has not been made pub­lic.

On sep­ar­ate mat­ters, the com­mit­tee is ex­pec­ted to an­nounce by Monday wheth­er it will pro­ceed to that next in­vest­ig­at­ive step on al­leg­a­tions in­volving Re­pub­lic­an Con­fer­ence Chair­wo­man Cathy Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers of Wash­ing­ton, and in an un­re­lated mat­ter in­volving fresh­man Rep. Mark­wayne Mul­lin, an Ok­lahoma Re­pub­lic­an.

Gu­ti­er­rez has in re­cent years built a na­tion­al pro­file as one of Con­gress’s most pas­sion­ate ad­voc­ates on im­mig­ra­tion is­sues, and is re­garded one of his party’s lead­ing strategists on try­ing to come up with a bi­par­tis­an ap­proach to im­mig­ra­tion re­form.

He has been part of an in­form­al bi­par­tis­an group of House mem­bers try­ing to draft an im­mig­ra­tion bill that would in­crease bor­der se­cur­ity and al­low the na­tion’s 11 mil­lion un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants to ap­ply for U.S. cit­izen­ship. He also is chair­man of the Con­gres­sion­al His­pan­ic Caucus Im­mig­ra­tion Task Force, and pre­vi­ously served as chair­man of the Demo­crat­ic Caucus Im­mig­ra­tion Task Force.

This ses­sion, Gu­ti­er­rez gave up his No. 3 po­s­i­tion in terms of Demo­crat­ic seni­or­ity on the Fin­an­cial Ser­vices Com­mit­tee in or­der to serve on the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, which is the com­mit­tee of jur­is­dic­tion for im­mig­ra­tion.

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