WASHINGTON--(Click here to read CREW’s full report on Rep. Schmidt.)--Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in free legal services from lawyers hired by an interest group that appreciated her legislative assistance. The ethically challenged congresswoman also failed to report the free legal services as gifts in her disclosure forms. It’s no wonder that Rep. Schmidt has been named by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) as one of the Most Corrupt Members of Congress.
“The rules are clear, Members of Congress can’t accept free legal services, but for years Rep. Schmidt allowed lawyers to work on her behalf without so much as questioning her failure to receive a bill”
“The rules are clear, Members of Congress can’t accept free legal services, but for years Rep. Schmidt allowed lawyers to work on her behalf without so much as questioning her failure to receive a bill” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “On top of that, she failed to report the gifts on her financial disclosure forms, potentially a criminal violation.”
Rep. Schmidt has long had close ties to Turkish American groups, despite having few voters of Turkish descent in her district. Her 2008 election opponent, David Krikorian, accused her of accepting $30,000 in “blind money” from such groups. After she beat Mr. Krikorian, two lawyers with ties to the Turkish American Legal Defense Fund (TALDF) represented Rep. Schmidt, filing a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission against Mr. Krikorian. In June 2010, Rep. Schmidt sued Mr. Krikorian for defamation, using the same lawyers, all without paying a dime.
The Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) has paid $498,587 in Rep. Schmidt’s legal fees. The congresswoman claims she never knew TCA was paying, and that she intended to pay. There is conflicting information about what she and her staff knew about the payment, with one lawyer testifying that TALDF’s legal services were essentially gifts. It was not until July 2010 that Rep. Schmidt even sought to set up a legal defense fund. Even the notoriously lax House Ethics Committee concluded in August 2011 that she had received an impermissible gift of services, but improbably found the congresswoman’s violation accidental.
“Rep. Schmidt’s excuses sound like those of former Sen. Ted Stevens when he explained his failure to pay for work done on his house. Neither of them ever got a bill. Pretty convenient, not to notice missing bills amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Do you imagine that happens frequently to Americans who aren’t members of Congress?” said Ms. Sloan.
This is the 7th edition of the CREW’S Most Corrupt Report, an annual look at a bipartisan collection of Washington’s worst. This year’s list includes seven Democrats, and 12 Republicans. Five are repeat offenders. Since 2005, CREW has named 70 members of Congress to the list, 32 of whom are no longer in office.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions. For more information, please visit www.citizensforethics.org or contact Garrett Russo at 202.408.5565 or firstname.lastname@example.org