Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Ill., has spent nearly $30,000 in legal fees since last summer, hiring a lawyer who specializes in ethics and congressional investigations after USA TODAY reported the congressman had kept a Chicago lobbyist working in his congressional office for years.
Neither the House Ethics Committee nor the Office of Congressional Ethics has announced an investigation of Gutiérrez, but a report issued by the OCE in January — which investigates then refers matters to the committee — indicated that one case was being held until this week because of House rules prohibiting release of ethics reports before an election. Tuesday's Illinois primary is the only election this week.
Gutiérrez's office declined to answer inquiries about whether he is under investigation. Asked by a reporter whether he was being investigated by the OCE, Gutiérrez replied, "I don't talk about OCE investigations. I learned a long time ago not to talk about them."
USA TODAY reported in June that over the prior 10 years, Gutiérrez — a leader of House Democrats' efforts to overhaul immigration laws — paid a Chicago lobbyist more than $500,000 in taxpayer funds to work side-by-side with his congressional staff. The lobbyist, Doug Scofield, after stepping down as Gutiérrez's chief of staff in 2002, was paid several thousand dollars a month as a contractor to train staff, review and draft news releases, and help publicize Gutiérrez's activities among other things.
Scofield also continued to represent clients in his Chicago-area lobbying and public affairs practice.
At the time, Gutiérrez spokesman Douglas Rivlin told USA TODAY that Scofield's contract had been reviewed multiple times over the years by the House committee that oversees congressional expenditures. They "have never had a problem with this," he said. Overall, "we are getting value for the money that we are spending."
Nevertheless, a week later, Gutiérrez severed ties with Scofield. Rivlin said at the time that while neither the congressman nor Scofield had done anything wrong, "Congressman Gutiérrez is committed to leaving no question at all about whether he is following both the letter and intent of all House rules, and believes not continuing this contract is the best way to move forward without any concerns or doubts of any kind," Rivlin said.
In August, Gutiérrez paid $7,500 from his campaign account to attorney Andrew Herman, who worked for the Brand Law Group, a Washington firm that specializes in "protecting and defending the rights of witnesses involved in government investigations." According to Federal Election Commission records, over the next several months, Gutiérrez paid over $18,000 more to Herman, then in February paid an additional $3,100 to a law firm called Miller Chevalier — where Herman had moved his practice in the fall. In the 2011-2012 election cycle, Gutiérrez reports to the FEC showed no legal fees at all.
USA TODAY noted a similar spike in legal fees by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, R-Wash., in February just before the Ethics Committee announced it was reviewing allegations against her that had been forwarded by the OCE.
Neither Herman nor Scofield responded to phone calls and e-mails requesting comment for this story.
By Paul Singer http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/03/17/gutierrez-ethics-scofield-legal-fees/6524913/?utm_content=buffer95382&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer