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Posted at 05:25 PM ET, 06/28/2011

Ethics group calls for FBI investigation into Rep. Laura Richardson

Updated 5:25 p.m.

An ethics watchdog group is calling for the FBI to conduct a criminal investigation into Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.)

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington announced Tuesday that it has obtained internal e-mails from Richardson’s office that the group says shows the California Democrat forced her congressional staff to work on and contribute to her campaign. Richardson denies the allegations.

“Internal emails regarding a fundraising event dubbed ‘Democratic Idol’ show Richardson Chief of Staff Shirley Cooks told employees they were required to attend the event, wearing staff shirts embroidered with the phrase ‘37th Congressional District,’” CREW said in a statement Tuesday. “In an email from her official House account, Ms. Cooks stated that spouses and interns were expected to attend as well.”

The group also charges that Richardson routinely required her staff to go on personal errands for her, such as picking up her dry cleaning.

Richardson’s office said in a statement Tuesday that the allegations by CREW “are not new and they are based on media accounts, information and claims reported publicly months ago.”

“Nothing in the CREW letter or its exhibits support the allegations that Congresswoman Richardson ever forced or coerced members of her staff to engage in campaign activity,” Richardson communications director Ray Zaccaro said in a statement. “As this office has previously confirmed, staff were interviewed by the House Ethics Committee in November 2010. The Congresswoman and her staff have fully cooperated.”

Zacarro added that CREW “has yet to apologize for or retract the unsupported allegations” it made regarding the ethics committee’s investigation into the foreclosure of Richardson’s home.

The CREW complaint is not the first time that Richardson has faced ethics questions. The California Democrat, who first won election to the House in a 2007 special election, was investigated by the House ethics committee in 2009 on charges that she had improperly benefited when a bank placed a hold on the sale of her foreclosed home. The panel unanimously cleared her in July 2010.

Richardson also acknowledged in November that the ethics committee had “interviewed” her staff following complaints of abusive behavior by the congresswoman, although she denied that any investigation was underway.

By  |  05:25 PM ET, 06/28/2011

 
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