Every year, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) releases a list of the most corrupt members of Congress.
The list, which has come under fire from conservatives for being too left-leaning, is based on a combination campaign finance violations, flagrant rules violations, credible allegations of corruption and other factors.
The nonpartisan centre identifies the 14 most corrupt members, and also points out a few “Dishonorable Mentions.”
While some of the people on this year’s list have been serial offenders of Ethics rules on the Hill, some are new — and some are unexpected.
CREW's Charges: Richardson is being investigated for claims that she forced her official Congressional staff to work on her re-election campaign, then later obstructing an official ethics investigation into the claims.
If the claims against Richardson are true, the California Congresswoman is an awful boss. According to the CREW report, Richardson repeatedly forced her congressional staff to do hundreds of hours of unpaid work for her 2010 re-election campaign, and penalised employees who fell short of her expectations.
Some instances are particularly glaring, like forcing an employee to put fliers on cars until two in the morning, or penalising someone who was on vacation. She also forced interns to attend a fundraiser and even had one staff member volunteer for her opponent to collect intel.
Earlier this year, Richardson admitted to a seven-count Statement of Alleged Violation in front of the House Ethics Committee and was forced to pay a $10,000 fine.
CREW's Charges: Rivera is under investigation by the FBI and the IRS for multiple money laundering and tax evasion schemes.
According to CREW, David Rivera has cooked his campaign books, repeatedly misreporting income on mandatory finance disclosure forms, and using campaign funds to steer money to family and friends. His accounts situation was described as 'a mystery' by a prosecutor, and, according to investigators he's been dishonest on reporting information.
Rivera is also accused of breaking multiple campaign finance laws when he intervened in a Democratic primary by paying for his preferred opponent's mailers.
CREW's Charges: Andrews earmarked federal funds for his wife's employer and also used his campaign money for personal expenses -- including a lavish family trip to Scotland.
In 2011, Andrews used campaign funds to fly to Scotland for the wedding of a friend, spending three nights at the five-star Balmoral Hotel and racking up $30,000 in extravagent expenses, including the purchase of fine china and thousands spent on food and petty expenses.
He also tapped into the campaign fund for a $10,000 elegant carnival-themed graduation party for a daughter, and later spent $97,000 on California trips to jump start his daughter's acting career. And his congressional campaign made generous donations to theatres where his daughter performed.
His wife's employer, Rutgers University School of Law, has received more than $1.5 million in earmarks from Andrews.
CREW's Charges: Bishop solicited campaign donations from a hedge fund advisor who asked him to help get permits to put on a fireworks show for his son's Bar Mitzvah.
When Eric Semler, a Long Island hedge fund advisor, had trouble scoring the necessary permits for the fireworks show, he reached out to Bishop, his congressman with whom he'd had little prior contact. Bishop offered to make a few phone calls to grease up some wheels in the local government.
Soon after, Bishop's daughter called Semler and hit him up for a contribution of up to $10,000.
Semler, the hedge fund manager, described the experience as 'really gross.'
CREW's Charges: According to CREW, Grimm, a freshman congressman, set up an illegal system to funnel money into his campaign.
Essentially, there's a maximum amount that people can give to a campaign, and Grimm flouted that by setting up a way for big donors to give money through middlemen.
So, if Big Donor A wanted to give $20,000 to Grimm illegally, Grimm would accept the cash -- literally at a money drop -- and then find eight people, known as 'straw donors,' who were willing to say that they each contributed the maximum $2,500, and tell the FEC that the money came from those fake donors.
Even more damning, some of Grimm's big donors were allegedly non-U.S. citizens, which is illegal, and Grimm may have offered a green card in exchange for fundraising assistance.
He also used CSPAN footage of a floor speech in campaign emails, which is against House rules. He had previously used official materials -- namely, the FBI's seal and the Marine emblem -- for fundraising purposes.
CREW's Charges: Vitter -- who is infamous for being fingered in a prostitution sting -- is now under investigation for an attempted bribery of the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
According to the CREW report, Vitter told Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar that he would block legislation granting the secretary's pay raise until the Department issued six permits for deepwater exploratory wells each month.
The Senate Ethics Committee issued a letter stating that Vitter's actions were inappropriate, but Vitter later took pride in his action and said he would do it again.
CREW points out that, technically, this is a bribe.
CREW's Charges: Rogers used his position as the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee to steer millions of dollars in earmarks to a local manufacturing company in exchange for campaign contributions.
CREW's report claims Rogers engaged in an unseemly deal with the Kentucky manufacturing firm Phoenix Products, which later overcharged the Army for drip pans that were priced at 700% market value.
Rogers repeatedly claimed in press releases that he had secured more than $17 million in earmark funding for Phoenix Products, including an Army contract for $17,000 drip pans that typically cost $2,500.
The owners of the company have given $20,400 to Rogers since 2004.
CREW's Charges: Broun failed to disclose the true source of loans made to his campaign fund.
According to CREW, Broun lied a couple times about how he found a way to finance his first campaign. Essentially, Broun spent more money than he had during his first campaign for congress, and had to take out a bunch of loans to avoid being politically bankrupt.
Broun claimed that they were zero-interest loans worth $309,000 from his own personal account. His campaign gradually paid these back over his term into the Congressman's personal account.
The thing is, Broun didn't have that kind of money, and actually had just gotten the loans, which were not interest-free, from a bank. In 2011 his campaign began to pay 'interest' into his own personal account, totaling $30,200. Because Broun obscured the source, that's illegal.
CREW's Charges: His list of potential violations include coercing contributions, conduit contributions, excessive contributions, corporate contributions, witness tampering, obstruction of agency proceedings, bribery of a witness, false statements of personal financial disclosure forms, tax evasion and conduct not reflecting creditably on the House.
Buchanan, a three-term member of congress and former Florida car dealership owner, is the subject of an ongoing investigation into allegations that he bullied employees into giving to his campaign and reimbursed them out of his own pocket if they refused to otherwise.
According to CREW, Buchanan ended up paying some of them back using $67,000 of his company's funds.
Buchanan has been accused of offering his business partner $2.9 million to sign an affidavit lying that the the illegal employee contributions were his idea, and that Buchanan was not involved. The company's former CFO has since accused Buchanan of committing tax evasion and fraud.
CREW also notes that Buchanan has been a party to thirteen different lawsuits since 2008.
CREW's Charges: Meeks is under multiple investigations, including probes into improper gifts and loans, involvement in charities under federal investigation, and acting on behalf of convicted banker and campaign donor R. Allen Stanford, who ran a Ponzi scheme.
One of the most glaring examples of Meeks' corruption involves a massive discount he got on a $1.2 million Queens McMansion because he has the word 'Congressman' on his business card. CREW claims that he got the 30 per cent taken off by obscuring a bunch of under-the-table, interest-free loans.
CREW's Charges: Stearns is accused of directing public money to his wife, misusing official congressional resources for a campaign, and also improperly using House proceedings on campaign materials.
According to the CREW report, Stearns secured $5 million worth of earmarks for his wife's employer, the College of Central Florida. Two days before one of his earmarks was passed, his wife's salary doubled, and as Stearns secured more funding for the school, his wife continued to rise through the ranks.
The report also claims that Stearns' congressional press secretary worked as his de facto campaign spokesperson on her congressional salary.
In June 2012, Stearns' opponent indicated that the FBI is investigating the Congressman.
CREW's Charges: Young, a 20-term congressman, is accused of earmarking transportation funds to a campaign donor, using campaign funds for personal expenses, and neglecting to disclose gifts from lobbyists.
The FBI has launched investigations into Rep. Young's 'systemic abuse' of his position of trust.
According to CREW, Young earmarked millions of federal dollars for a highway interchange in Florida. The contractor on the project was a donor to Young's campaign.
Young is also accused of treating all travel to Alaska as campaign-related, and routinely charges any trip home to his campaign. And Young and his wife have received 'countless' gifts -- including an ivory necklace -- from lobbyists and have neglected to report many of them.
CREW's Charges: Outgoing Texas Representative Ron Paul allegedly sought double travel reimbursements for expenses.
The CREW report claims that Ron Paul took a number of expensive flights over the course of his career that he put in for reimbursements from his official congressional travel expense account.
But according to CREW, the Congressman had already been reimbursed for the flights by committees sympathetic to his causes or run by surrogates, like Liberty PAC or the Foundation for Rational Economics and Education. This double accounting is illegal and unethical, in CREW's view.
CREW's Charges: Berkley is under House investigation for helping her husband professionally and financially by lobbying Medicare and Medicaid on behalf of his employer, the University Medical centre of Southern Nevada.
According to the CREW report, Medicare was about to pull funding for the kidney programs at the hospital because of patient death statistics. But Berkley, along with some of her colleagues in Congress, lobbied for leniency and got it.
Berkley's husband, one of Las Vegas' leading dialysis and kidney specialists, has a longstanding and lucrative relationship with the UMC system, and obviously stands to benefit from the deal.
CREW's Charges: Kirk used his position to benefit his girlfriend's clients. He's also used campaign funds to keep his girlfriend on the payroll, and improperly accepted gifts, including stays in European hotels.
According to the CREW report, Kirk was dating a PR professional named Dodie McCraken thoughout his time in the House and Senate. CREW claims that during that time, Kirk wrote up bills that benefitted two of McCraken's non-profit clients by granting them U.S. commorative coins. The bills led to more than $2 million in financial gains for the two groups, the Disabled Veterans LIFE Memorial Foundation, and the Congressional Medal of honour Foundation.
According to the report, Kirk accepted legal gifts from McCraken and her clients, including stays at luxurious European hotels, but neglected to inform the FEC.
CREW also claims that Kirk found ways to keep both his girlfriend and his ex-wife on the campaign's payroll and went to great lengths to cover it up.
CREW's Charges: Issa publicized a letter containing specific and extensive details regarding a wiretap application, potentially in violation of a number of federal laws.
According to the CREW report, Issa, in his quest to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress obtained sealed documents from a leaker in the the Department of Justice regarding the Fast and Furious operation.
The thing is, to legally release sealed documents, one must go before a judge and demonstrate good cause. But CREW claims Issa merely released the sealed documents into the public, potentially violating federal law.
CREW's Charges: CREW claims that Schock, the youngest serving member of Congress, illegally solicited excessive contributions, and used campaign funds for personal expenses.
According to the report, Schock asked for a $25,000 contribution to a PAC when the maximum legal limit is $5,000. Attempting to compel someone to donate illegally is not allowed under FEC law.
CREW also claims that Schock received reimbursements from his campaign fund for P90x workout DVDs, expensive meals, and travel abroad to Europe.
CREW's Charges: CREW claims that Dicks directed public money to his son's company, the Puget Sound Partnership, an environmental group that improves the body of water in Washington.
According to the CREW report, the organisation saw its federal funding jump from $20 million to $50 million after Dicks directed federal EPA money to the partnership, and to the University of Washington's College of the Environment, which also employs his son.
CREW's Charges: McKeon, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, is said to have accepted a very favourable mortgage rate that Countrywide Financial offered to members of Congress sympathetic to its industry.
The report also claims McKeon forced his staff to work on his wife's campaign for a seat in California's state legislature.
CREW's Charges: Towns, like McKeon, is accused of accepting the special congressional rock-bottom mortgage rate from Countrywide Financial. Towns used his position on H-GROC to delay the investigation into these illicit loan rates.
He is also accused of using money from his official campaign committee's coffers to pay off the lease on his wife's car, a using official funds for personal purposes.
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