Two Democrats in the Florida congressional delegation were included in the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust’s (FACT) “Top 5 Worst Ethics Violators” of the year.
FACT, which defines itself as “a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency in government and civic arenas,” included Florida Democrats U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings and Debbie Wasserman Schultz in its list of worst ethics violators.
“FACT addressed a number of ethical violations this year ranging from the misuse of government resources to egregious campaign finance violations,” said Kendra Arnold, FACT’s executive director. “While each violation is different, at the heart of each case is a public official brazenly disregarding our nation’s laws and placing their own political interests above the law and the public good.
FACT is proud to have played a leading role in exposing this wrongdoing and we are committed to continuing to bring unethical behavior to light and restoring people’s faith in our public officials,” Arnold added.
First place went to still unknown members of Congress who were helped by $17 million paid out by the Office of Compliance (OOC)’s sexual harassment settlement fund over the last 20 years.
“While Congress is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), FACT maintains that this is even more reason why releasing this information quickly is important—not only for the purposes of ensuring transparency in government, but to hold public officials accountable for unethical and criminal behavior,” FACT noted.
Wasserman Schultz placed second on the list.
“In July, FACT filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) against Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz for continuing to employ and compensate House IT aide, Imran Awan after he was barred from the House computer system and under criminal investigation. According to FACT’s complaint, Wasserman Schultz refused to remove Awan from House payroll and compensated Awan with taxpayer funds for several months – even though he was barred from the House computer system which would prevent him from performing any reasonable IT work. In fact, Wasserman Schultz only fired Awan after he was arrested on bank fraud charges attempting to flee the country the morning of July 25, 2017. Wasserman Schultz is in clear violation of House Ethics Rules as members are directly responsible for ensuring their staff are only paid for official public work.”
U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., was included on third at the list for having Michael Collins, his chief of staff, also serve as his campaign’s treasurer.
Hastings was included as fourth on the list.
“In March, FACT filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) against Democratic Representative Alcee Hastings for using taxpayer funds to overcompensate his longtime girlfriend Patricia Williams,” FACT noted. “Although the personal relationship between Rep. Hastings and Patricia Williams is not prohibited, Rep. Hastings has paid Williams the maximum salary permitted by law for several years and Williams is Hastings’ highest compensated employee. Typically, a member’s chief of staff, the top person responsible for overall office functions, is the highest-paid person in a congressional office not the deputy director of the member’s district office. Members are prohibited from retaining employees on the payroll who do not perform official duties commensurate with the compensation received. Williams has collected nearly $2.4 million in salary since 2000 for her work in the Broward County district office.
Former U.S. Labor Sec. Tom Perez was also included on the list for shifting funds from his campaign to lead the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to his defeated rivals.