Landmark Legal Foundation Seeks Investigation of Rep. Conyers

Detroit City Council member Monica Conyers, with Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D) in 2005, pleaded guilty to taking thousands in a bribery scheme.
Detroit City Council member Monica Conyers, with Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D) in 2005, pleaded guilty to taking thousands in a bribery scheme. (By Carlos Osorio -- Associated Press)
By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 17, 2009

A conservative legal foundation this week urged the House ethics panel to investigate Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) as new details emerged about his wife's involvement in a Detroit bribery scheme.

Though Monica Conyers, a Detroit City Council member, pleaded guilty last month and admitted taking several thousand dollars in the scheme, charges filed Wednesday against one of her former top aides allege that the councilwoman took at least $65,000 from people seeking contracts from the council or a pension board on which she sat in 2006 and 2007.

Federal prosecutors in Michigan accuse Conyers and the aide of using their positions in government to engage in a "persistent and continuing pattern of extortion and bribery." Prosecutors said last month that they had "no suggestion" the congressman was aware of his wife's activities.

Monica Conyers pleaded guilty to a single count of criminal conspiracy and faces up to five years in prison. Former aide Samuel L. Riddle Jr., who was released yesterday on an unsecured bond after an initial court appearance, disputes the allegations.

The FBI investigation is providing ammunition to opponents of John Conyers, who has been married to the former Monica Ann Esters for nearly 20 years and who has served in Congress since 1965. The couple lead mostly separate lives, according to friends in Detroit and Washington.

The Landmark Legal Foundation, which has offices in Leesburg, this week urged members of the House ethics panel to investigate whether Conyers violated rules by failing to report on his financial disclosure forms payments his wife accepted improperly.

The foundation also raised questions about a 2007 letter in which the congressman urged the Environmental Protection Agency to expedite the permitting process for a waste well project that would have benefited a businessman who had contributed to his wife. The letter originated in Monica Conyers's office.

A spokesman for Rep. Conyers has said the congressman supported the project because it would have helped his constituents, including retired firefighters and police officers.

Through a spokesman, Conyers declined to comment yesterday on the Landmark letter. Conyers has previously declined to say whether he would amend his financial disclosure forms.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company