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House approves ethics report against Laura Richardson

Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.). (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

House lawmakers agreed unanimously by voice vote to accept the findings of the House Ethics Committee, which said Wednesday that she flouted the law by “improperly using House resources for campaign, personal, and nonofficial purposes” and that she destroyed evidence, failed to produce subpoenaed documents and tried “to influence the testimony of witnesses.”

Richardson agreed to the panel’s conclusions in a negotiated settlement. Before Thursday’s vote, Richardson spoke on the House floor and accused members of the ethics panel of influencing witnesses by telling them that they planned to act against her.

She also rejected the report’s conclusion that she tried to withhold documents related to the investigation: “I want to make clear that the statement of alleged violations does not assert anywhere that I deliberately failed to produce documents in response to requests for information. I did not admit to this conduct, and I certainty do deny it.”

Richardson also didn’t apologize for her conduct during her remarks.

In response, members of the ethics committee said they were aware of Richardson’s concerns, which were refuted in their report.

Thursday’s action included forcing Richardson to pay a $10,000 fine by December. The vote was seen as a less severe punishment than outright expulsion or a censure, which would have required Richardson to stand on the House floor and receive a verbal rebuke from House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).

In 2002, the House expelled Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio) three months after a federal conviction for bribery and accepting kickbacks. He was the fifth House member to be ousted in the chamber’s history.

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