The attorney for the former congressional employe named in financial misconduct charges against Rep. Charles H. Wilson (D-Calif.) labeled the allegations "ridiculous" yesterday.
Michael Madigan, who represents California businessman Lee Rogers, said Wilson hired his client in the early 1970s as a consultant on postal reform legislation and as liaison to the business community.
The $15,500 Rogers gave Wilson during that time consisted of loans and campaign contributions, Madigan said, not unethical gifts as charged by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.
The panel, also known as the ethics committee, filed a 15-count allegation against Wilson Thursday, saying Rogers' pay -- about $12,000 a year from 1971 to 1976 -- "was not commensurate" with his duties. It also charged Wilson with converting campaign funds to personal use and the lying about that to committee investigators.
Wilson emphatically denied the charges, but declined to answer questions about his relationship with Rogers. Thus Madigan's comments yesterday are the first public explanation of their dealings.
"The idea that a substantial businessman like Rogers would be kicking back money by check to the congressman is ridiculous" Madigan said.
Rogers is president of a mail order firm called American Holiday Association. The committee said his payments to Wilson were improper because Rogers had a "direct interest in legislation before the Congress."
Madigan countered: "Every political action committee and government relations office in the country gives money to members of Congress they think will foster the law the way they think it should be."
He said two $5,000 "gifts" in June 1971 and 1972 actually were loans from Rogers to Wilson. Madigan said that there were no papers documenting the loans that he didn't know if interest was charged, and that none of the money has been repaid.
The other $5,500 was intended as campaign contributions, Madigan said, including a $5,000 check Rogers wrote to another Wilson staffer, O. Robert Fordiani, in June 1973.
Wilson will have a chance to answer the charges in a public hearing before the committee votes on whether to recommend punishment -- reprimand, censure or expulsion -- to the House. Wilson was reprimanded last year for making false statements about cash he took from South Korean lobbyist Tongsun Park.