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Ethics Group Files Complaint Against Rep. Richardson

The left-leaning watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, known as CREW, is asking the House ethics committee to launch an immediate investigation of Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.).

Specifically, CREW is asking the ethics panel, officially known as the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, whether Richardson took a loan in violation of House rules; failed to properly report a loan on her financial disclosure report; and "engaged in conduct that does not reflect creditably on the House by loaning her campaign money at a time when she was in default on her mortgage."

Any request by an outside group, however, has little or no influence on the House ethics process. Still, CREW's complaint intensifies the pressure on Richardson, who has largely dodged questions about her financial dealings.

The Los Angeles Times's real-estate blogger is so fed up with the congresswoman ignoring his questions that he has invited his readers to pose their questions for "the triple-default Democrat from Long Beach."

The freshman congresswoman lost her Sacramento home, which she bought when she was a state assemblywoman, to foreclosure and defaulted repeatedly on loans on two other homes in Los Angeles area. (Though her lender, Washington Mutual Bank, filed a notice of rescission of the foreclosure sale earlier this month.) The congresswoman also reportedly failed to pay some $9,000 in property taxes on her Sacramento home, all at a time when she was loaning her congressional and state assembly campaigns more than $70,000.

"It is unusual for someone with such a deplorable credit history to be approved for mortgages repeatedly, suggesting that Rep. Richardson may have traded on her other elected positions in order to receive those loans," CREW asserts. "Given that 'loans' are included in the definition of 'gifts,' if Washington Mutual Bank rescinded its foreclosure of Rep. Richardson's house and renegotiated her mortgage on terms that differed from the terms the bank offered to any other similarly situated individual in default on their mortgage, Rep. Richardson may have received an improper gift in violation of House rules."

Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, says, "Richardson not only has shown exceedingly poor judgment, she has violated House ethics rules. She is unfit to be an elected official, at any level."

By Mary Ann Akers  |  June 18, 2008; 1:41 PM ET
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