Wednesday, May 17, 2006

House Democratic Culture of Corruption

Wow. House Democrats are really starting to rack up quite a list of Members with ethical questions to answer. Now it's Representative Joe Baca, accused of forcing staffers to campaign for his son, while taxpayers footed the bill:

Former staff accuse Baca of 'forced volunteering'
By Josephine Hearn

Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) sent six of his Washington staff members to California in February 2004 to campaign for his son, Joe Baca Jr., who at the time was locked in an intense primary battle for a seat in the California Assembly.

The staffers divided their time between the elder Baca’s San Bernardino congressional office, where they were holding a staff retreat, and the younger Baca’s campaign office, often engaging in campaign activities during official work time or under pressure from Baca or his chief of staff, according to the accounts of two former staff members and another source with knowledge of the trip. No member of the staff took leave to do campaign work, the sources said.

Although congressional staffers routinely volunteer on political campaigns, they may do so only under strict guidelines to ensure that the work is voluntary and that no taxpayer money, including that allocated for their congressional salaries, is used to fund their work.

The allegations could represent a violation of House ethics guidelines or of federal statutes barring intimidation to secure political contributions.

While in California, a number of staffers became disillusioned with the arrangement and raised concerns in written office evaluations.

“It was basically forced volunteering,” one former staffer said. “Personally, I had problems with it. I felt uncomfortable going out there. ... I felt a little taken advantage of.”

...Last year, Baca directed the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) to contribute $3,300, the maximum allowable donation, to each of his two sons’ Statehouse campaigns, drawing charges of nepotism from other CHC lawmakers. Jeremy Baca, the congressman’s second son, is running for the Statehouse seat being vacated by Joe Baca Jr., who is running for the state Senate.

In the winter of 2004, Joe Baca Jr. was making his first bid for elected office. With no political experience and a lackluster career as a substitute teacher, he was counting on his family name to help him overcome stiff primary competition from another politically well-connected candidate, David Roa Pruitt, the chief of staff to the mayor of San Bernardino.

As the March 2 primary approached, political observers were expecting a dead heat. But instead of the photo finish everyone was expecting, Baca Jr. trounced Pruitt 59-27 percent.

Leading up to the primary, Baca had received more than $60,000 in campaign contributions from out of state, more than 10 times the out-of-state donations Pruitt collected.

Baca Jr. also received $835 in donations from four of his father’s congressional staff members. Some of those same staffers volunteered with the campaign.

...The congressman’s longtime chief of staff, Linda Macias, spent nearly five weeks in the district between mid-January and the March 2 primary, racking up $3,000 in hotel bills, according to disbursement reports. The congressman faced no opposition in his primary that year.

Macias’s lengthy stay in San Bernardino contrasts markedly with the rest of the year. Disbursement reports indicate that after the primary Macias spent only 10 days in the district for the rest of 2004.

A Democratic aide with knowledge of the trip said Macias was instrumental in ensuring staffers helped with campaign work.

“She was deeply involved. She enabled it,” the aide said. “They were using staff as de facto campaign employees.”

In his statement, Baca defended Macias’s long presence in the district that year.

“As chief of staff, Linda Macias is responsible for managing all of my staff in both my Washington DC and San Bernardino offices. While she was in the district, she was engaged in appropriate and necessary activities including staff orientation, training and supervision.”

Democrats have complained that under Republican rule in Washington, a "Culture of Corruption" has taken root. It's starting to look like they really know what they're talking about! I just didn't realize they were talking only about the Democratic conference! I can't even remember all the names anymore: Mollohan, McKinney, McDermott, Jefferson, Schumer, Reid, Conyers, Kennedy...

I guess we're going to start to see the MSM cover all this like they are Abramoff...

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