The House Ethics Committee on Thursday said it will review an allegation over whether an agreement Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., made with his former chief of staff, Doug Scofield, was proper under House rules.
The committee did not release details about the inquiry, which got started with a referral from the independent non-partisan Office of Congressional Ethics.
After Scofield left the Gutierrez congressional office, Gutierrez, beginning in 2003 and running through 2013, hired him to train and advise his House employees on various communication-related matters, paying him out of government funds allocated to each House member.
A central issue in the probe — according to a document viewed by the Sun-Times — is whether the agreement Gutierrez struck with Scofield was a permissible contract, or if Scofield acted more like an employee or consultant, which is not allowed. Over the ten-year period, Scofield was paid $590,000.
Gutierrez spokesman Doug Rivlin said in a statement, “The OCE referral to the House Committee on Ethics relates to whether a long-standing contract was allowable under House rules. The contract for services was reviewed and approved by the House of Representatives and submitted for renewal each congressional session for 10 years. It was consistently and properly reported. Rep. Gutiérrez cancelled the contract last year.
“Rep. Gutiérrez cooperated fully with the OCE during its review and will continue to do so with the Committee. As the Committee has noted, an OCE referral does not indicate that any violation has occurred or reflect a judgment on behalf of the Committee.”
Scofield, in a separate arrangement with Gutierrez — which was submitted for approval to the House Ethics panel Rivlin said — also is the co-author of the lawmakers memoir, “Still Dreaming: My Journey from the Barrio to Capitol Hill,” which was published last October. The House ethics panel is not looking into that deal.
Scofield met Gutierrez when he worked at a political consulting firm advising Gutierrez during his first run for Congress in 1992. Scofield went on to become his congressional chief of staff.
Scofield left Gutierrez to work on then-Rep. Rod Blagojevich’s 2002 run for governor. Once Blagojevich won, Scofield, for a few months worked for him as deputy governor. (Blagojevich is now serving a 14-year sentence on federal corruption charges.)
Scofield went on to launch his own company providing political and public relation consulting and where he was a state of Illinois lobbyist. Scofield has never been a federal lobbyist.
The ethics committee will announce its next step on or before Monday, May 5, 2014.
FOOTNOTE: Federal agents wiretapped Blagojevich discussing with Scofield, by then his former aide, the appointment he needed to make to fill the Senate seat left vacant after Barack Obama was elected president. Said Blagojevich to Scofield, “I mean, I’ve got this thing and it’s f—— golden.”