The House Ethics Committee has voted to extend its review of payments made by Congressman Luis Gutierrez to a former staffer and lobbyist who worked on staff training in his office.
The Ethics Committee's review originated with a referral from the Office of Congressional Ethics last December. The Committee said in March it was extending the matter until May 5, and on Monday it released a statement recommending another phase of review.
At issue is some 10 years of payments to former Gutierrez staffer Doug Scofield.
"The Board recommends that the Committee on Ethics further review the allegation," the statement reads, "as there is substantial reason to believe that Representative Gutierrez used funds from his [Members' Representational Allowance] for an impermissible purpose -- to retain an individual to provide services to his congressional office that more closely resembled those provided by an employee or consultant, rather than a contractor -- in violation of federal law and House rules."
Scofield, who until recently worked as a lobbyist in Illinois, was retained as a "paid contractor" to train staff and help write news releases. Scofield was paid more than $500,000 in public funds during the 10 years he provided those services. He still operates a prominent communications firm here in Chicago.
The committee noted in its report that Scofield was retained from 2003 to 2013 to provide "training" and other "non-legislative" assistance to Gutierrez's congressional office.
Gutierrez's office paid Scofield's firm more than $590,000 since 2003 for the services, according to the committee's report, and more than $345,000 since March 2008.
"If Representative Gutierrez used funds from his MRA for an impermissible purpose ... then he may have violated House rules and federal law."
A spokesman for Gutierrez noted the committee decided not to convene a special ethics panel and the committee "ultimately found no conduct [relating to lobbying, campaign activities and the Congressman's memoir] that necessitated additional review by the House Committee on Ethics."
“The Congressman and his office cooperated fully with the inquiry of the OCE," spokesman Douglas G. Rivlin said. "The OCE requested ten years of records, files, notes and communications (including e-mails) between Doug Scofield and Congressman Gutiérrez and the Congressman’s staff. The Congressman and ten current or former staff members also voluntarily spoke with the OCE.”
Rivlin said Gutierrez will continue to fully cooperate. "As the Committee points out, its review does not indicate that any violation has occurred or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee," he said.