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Thursday, December 21, 2017
Ethics Watchdog Releases Top 5 Worst Ethics Violators of 2017
FACT Awards First Place to the Still
Unknown Members of Congress Tied to the Sexual Harassment Settlement Fund
(Washington, D.C.) – December 18,
2017 - The Foundation for
Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), a non-partisan ethics watchdog
group today released the group’s top five ethics violators of 2017. Ethics
violations include a national party committee chairman paying former opponents
with campaign funds, an elected official lavishly overcompensating a longtime
girlfriend with taxpayer dollars, and a congressional chief of staff illegally
holding and accepting a salary for two separate positions, among others. FACT
awarded first place to all of the still unknown Members of Congress tied to the
Office of Compliance (OOC)’s sexual harassment settlement fund. Every minute
those names remain secret is another minute that our elected officials are not
being held accountable for their reprehensible behavior.
“FACT addressed a number of ethical
violations this year ranging from the misuse of government resources to
egregious campaign finance violations. While each violation is different, at
the heart of each case is a public official brazenly disregarding our nation’s
laws and placing their own political interests above the law and the public
good.” said Kendra Arnold, Executive Director, Foundation for Accountability
and Civic Trust. “FACT is proud to have played a leading role in exposing
this wrongdoing and we are committed to continuing to bring unethical behavior
to light and restoring people’s faith in our public
In November, FACT called for the
immediate release of the names of all Members of Congress who have been
connected to the $17 million in taxpayer funds that the Office of Compliance
(OOC) has paid out to victims of sexual harassment and other forms of
harassment and discrimination over the past 20 years. While Congress is exempt
from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), FACT maintains that this is even
more reason why releasing this information quickly is important—not only for
the purposes of ensuring transparency in government, but to hold public
officials accountable for unethical and criminal behavior.
In July, FACT filed a complaint with
the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) against Representative Debbie
Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) for continuing to employ and compensate House IT Aide,
Imran Awan after he was barred from the House computer system and under
criminal investigation. According to FACT’s complaint, Wasserman Schultz
refused to remove Awan from House payroll and compensated Awan with taxpayer
Little Miss Debbie
several months – even though he was barred from the House computer
system which would prevent him from performing any reasonable IT work. In fact,
Wasserman Schultz only fired Awan after he was arrested on bank fraud charges
attempting to flee the country the morning of July 25, 2017. Wasserman Schultz
is in clear violation of House Ethics Rules as Members are directly responsible
for ensuring their staff are only paid for official public work.
In January, FACT filed a complaint
with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) against U.S. Representative John
Lewis (D-GA) and his Chief of Staff, Michael Collins for improperly allowing
Mr. Collins to simultaneously act as his campaign treasurer and chief of staff.
House ethics rules impose significant limitations on outside
Rep. John Lewis
including serving on ‘campaign organizations’. Even in the limited instances
where outside employment is allowed, the amount that can be earned is capped at
$27,255. Collins was earning $27,495 as Lewis’ campaign treasurer, a prohibited
salary for a prohibited position. The House Ethics Committee opened an
investigation into this breach of ethics rules by Rep. Lewis and Collins in
In March, FACT filed a complaint with
the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) against Democratic Representative
Alcee Hastings (FL-20) for using taxpayer funds to overcompensate his longtime
girlfriend Patricia Williams. Although the personal relationship between Rep.
Hastings and Patricia Williams is not prohibited, Rep. Hastings has paid
Williams the maximum salary permitted by law for several years and Williams is
Hastings’ highest compensated employee. Typically, a Member’s chief of
Alcee with Hillary
the top person responsible for overall office functions, is the highest-paid
person in a congressional office not the deputy director of the Member’s district
office. Members are prohibited from retaining employees on the payroll who do
not perform official duties commensurate with the compensation received.
Williams has collected nearly $2.4 million in salary since 2000 for her work in
the Broward County district office.
In October, FACT asked the Federal
Election Commission (FEC) to investigate the Democratic National Committee
(DNC) and its Chairman, Tom Perez for illegally transferring funds from his
campaign account to pay off the debts of his former opponents. In 2016, Perez
established “Team Tom,” an organization under 26 U.S.C. § 527 to raise money
and make expenditures in his race to become DNC Chairman. A month after being
elected DNC Chair in February 2017, Perez used over $27,000 in campaign funds
to pay off the debts of his former opponents (Jamie Harrison, Jehmu Green and
What was in that spoon again?
who dropped out of the chairman’s race and later supported
Perez’s candidacy. Since funds raised
and spent by “Team Tom” were non-federal funds and Chairman Perez directed
those funds to his former opponents while in his official capacity at the DNC,
both the DNC and Perez broke multiple campaign finance laws.
In April, FACT filed a complaint with
the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) against Representative Hank Johnson
(D-GA) for improperly using taxpayer funded resources to campaign for Jon
Ossoff, his former aide. According to FACT’s complaint, Rep. Johnson used his
official House website to promote Ossoff’s Congressional bid to replace
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary, Tom Price, in the House of
Representatives. At the time, recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution stories about
Ossoff and 6th District voting were featured on Johnson’s official website.
According to the House Ethics Manual, a lawmaker’s official website “may not
include personal, political or campaign information.” After being contacted by
the Atlanta Journal Constitution about this issue, Congressman Johnson’s office
deleted the offending material.
FACT is a nonprofit organization
dedicated to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency in government
and civic arenas. For more on FACT, visit: http://www.factdc.org/.