Long Beach Rep. Laura Richardson admits ethics violations; Ethics Committee says she obstructed investigation

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Rep. Laura Richardson and Michael Copon attend the "Children Uniting Nations" 4th Annual National Conference at The House Capitol Building on June 9, 2009 in Washington, DC.

Long Beach Democrat Laura Richardson has agreed to admit she violated House ethics rules by forcing staffers to work on her political campaign. The House Ethics Committee says Richardson also obstructed its investigation.

The investigation began two years ago when staffers in Rep. Richardson's Long Beach and Washington offices complained to the House Ethics Committee that their boss made them work on her political campaign. Congress has strict lines between government work and political campaigning.

The House Ethics Committee says there’s “substantial reason to believe” Richardson compelled staff to work on her re-election campaign and used official resources for personal purposes. It also accuses her of destroying evidence and trying to influence witnesses.

There won’t be a trial; as part of a negotiated settlement, Rep. Richardson agreed to admit guilt on seven counts, but she says she never intended to compel or coerce her staff to work on her campaign and never threatened them if they did not volunteer. In a statement, Richardson says she would have been able to present a "full defense" at an Ethics hearing, but that would take months and "considerable time and attention" when the House "will be better served considering matters of critical importance."

Richardson is currently in a re-election battle with fellow Democrat Rep. Janice Hahn in a newly redrawn district. The Committee “strongly discouraged” Richardson from using her staff on the current campaign, but if she does, her staff members must sign a waiver saying they’re doing so voluntarily.

The Ethics Committee also sent letters of “reproval” to two Richardson staffers.

Under the agreement, the congresswoman agrees to pay a $10,000 fine. In addition, the Ethics Committee unanimously recommends that the House of Representatives adopt the report, and with it, a reprimand of Rep. Richardson for the ethics violations.

This story has been updated.

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