Chris Marquette

Suspicious substance investigated outside of Schiff’s office
Capitol Police cleared the incident just before noon

A suspicious substance was found outside lead House impeachment manager Adam B. Schiff’s congressional office Thursday morning but was ultimately deemed not hazardous and cleared by the Capitol Police, casting a cloud of grim reality over Schiff’s earlier comments expressing grave concern for his staffers.

The incident comes just a day after President Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate in his impeachment trial on both charges: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Schiff, a California Democrat, spent days presenting the case for Trump’s removal from office.

New press guidance for impeachment trial restricts movement
Holds freeze journalists in place before and after trial proceedings

Reporters covering the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump were given guidance on how their access to senators during the proceedings will be drastically impeded.

The press galleries issued guidelines for the first time on Tuesday at 10:30 am, just hours before the Senate began considering a resolution setting the ground rules for trial rules.

Former Rep. Chris Collins sentenced to just over two years in federal prison
New York Republican pleaded guilty in October to insider trading charges

Former Rep. Chris Collins was sentenced to two years and two months in federal prison Friday for insider trading crimes he committed, ending a legal process that evolved from the New York Republican calling the charges “meritless” shortly after he was indicted to him pleading guilty and proclaiming embarrassment for his actions.

Collins, who represented the Buffalo-area 27th District for seven years and was the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for president, pleaded guilty on Oct. 1 to participating in a scheme to commit insider trading and lying to the FBI to conceal his illegal activity. He resigned from Congress the day before his guilty plea.

Campus Notebook: Sen. Bob Menendez spent over $5 million in legal fees associated with corruption scandal
Capitol Police arrested someone for assault with a broomstick

Millions in legal expenses for Sen. Bob Menendez’s corruption scandal

The New Jersey Democrat spent $5.16 million on his defense, according to his legal expense fund filing with the Senate Office of Public Records. The trust was formed in 2014 at the beginning of Menendez’s legal woes. It allows people to make contributions to Menendez so he can fight his legal battles associated with the Senate Select Committee on Ethics inquiries and allegations of federal law violations associated with his role as a senator.

Ethics expert: GOP ‘crosses the line’ with House hallway ambushes
DCCC complaint says NRCC violated ban on using official resources for campaigns

Having video trackers shadow candidates to get campaign dirt has become a common tactic, but the National Republican Congressional Committee  went too far if it directed aides to ambush Democrats in House office buildings, experts on congressional ethics said.

Though a GOP spokesman called it “frivolous,” the experts said there was merit to a complaint filed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee against the chairman of the NRCC, Rep. Tom Emmer. It could lead to the Minnesota lawmaker facing an investigation by the House Ethics Committee.

Prosecutors want Chris Collins to serve years in prison
Former congressman faces possible sentence ranging from house arrest to 57 months in prison

Federal prosecutors want former Rep. Chris Collins to spend “the top end” of a sentence guideline that ranges from almost four years to just under five years in prison for the crimes he pleaded guilty to in October: insider trading and lying to the FBI to conceal an insider trading scheme.

“There is no case that Collins cites, and no insider trading case of which the Government is aware, in which the circumstances call as clearly as they do here for a sentence that carries a sufficient term of incarceration to ensure respect for the law,” Max Nicholas, an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, wrote on behalf of the government.

Campus Notebook: Rick Scott’s lavish estates and exclusive clubs
Mitt Romney made a lot of money giving speeches, serving on corporate boards

Florida Sen. Rick Scott has a solid setup when he’s not in Washington.

Scott’s home in Naples, Fla., is worth between $5 million and $25 million. He also has a boathouse there, which is valued between $100,000 and $250,000.

John Boehner among GOP allies urging leniency for Chris Collins
Sentencing hearing for former New York congressman is Jan. 17

Former Speaker John A. Boehner is among a robust contingent of Republicans who want a judge to give convicted former Rep. Chris Collins a break on prison time.

The requests for leniency say the New York Republican is a dedicated public servant, father and friend. But the attempt from current and former GOP lawmakers runs contrary to calls from Collins’ former constituents in the 27th Congressional District of New York who say he deserves the maximum penalty for an egregious breach of the public’s trust.

Duncan Hunter resigns from Congress
Convicted congressman set to be sentenced in March

Rep. Duncan Hunter submitted his resignation from Congress on Tuesday, marking the end of an 11-year stint in the House marred by his misuse of campaign funds for a variety of endeavors, including spending money on Lego sets, movie tickets, a $14,000 family vacation to Italy and flights for his family’s pet bunny rabbit.

In his resignation letters to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Hunter said his resignation would be effective Jan. 13. “It has been an honor to serve the people of California’s 50th District, and I greatly appreciate the trust they have put in me over these last 11 years,” he wrote. 

Campus Notebook: Ethics Committee unveils rules for member service on private boards
Some ethics experts say the rules fall short of properly mitigating conflicts of interest

Former Rep. Chris Collins sat on the board of an Australian biotechnology company and used his privileged, insider knowledge that the stock would imminently plummet to help his family and others avoid $768,000 in losses, a decision that led to the demise of his political career and leaves him facing prison time.

Those actions forced the House Ethics Committee to grapple with how to deter such a breach of public trust in federally elected officials in Congress. House Resolution 6 created a new clause in the Code of Official Conduct — set to take effect Jan. 1, 2020 — that prohibits members, delegates, the resident commissioner, officers and employees of the House from serving as an officer or director of any public company. The measure also outlaws them from serving on a company traded on a foreign market, such as Innate Immunotherapeutics, the company Collins worked for.

McMorris Rodgers reproved by Ethics Committee for inappropriate use of funds
Washington Republican has to pay Treasury Department back $7,575

For more than five years, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ offices exhibited a concerning pattern of using both taxpayer money and unofficial resources inappropriately and an indifference to laws governing the use of those resources, a House Ethics Committee report found Thursday, leading the panel to reprove her and force her to pay the Treasury Department back $7,575.

The Ethics panel found that the Washington Republican provided inappropriate compensation for consultant services from 2012 to 2017. She defrayed the cost of official services she got from the consultants with either political funds or the consultants’ voluntary provision of services, acts that are in violation of House rules because they incorporated unofficial office accounts. Further, Rodgers used official money for consultant services that would have been a violation of rules restricting the use of the office budget, known as the Members’ Representational Allowance, but the funds used to pay consultants were largely paid for by her House leadership office, which is not subject to the same regulations. This is a shortcoming that the committee discovered in leadership offices, and it referred the issue to the chamber’s inspector general.

Ethics office report says Trahan may have concealed loans by husband from FEC
Office of Congressional Ethics details spouse contributions to campaign

There is “substantial reason” to believe Rep. Lori Trahan’s campaign accepted contributions that exceeded federal limits and that she failed to properly disclose required information, according to an Office of Congressional Ethics report released Tuesday. 

This matter began with complaints to the OCE about late injections of hundreds of thousands of dollars to Trahan’s campaign, prompting questions about where the funds originated. Trahan prevailed in a crowded 10-person Democratic primary in 2018; she loaned her campaign $300,000 from a joint checking account she shares with her husband en route to the win. 

Lawmaker pay freeze continues under proposed 2020 spending bill
Legislative Branch measure boosts money for member security, conventions, inauguration

House Democrats who wanted to approve a raise for lawmakers for the first time since 2009 will have to wait until the next appropriations cycle to deliver, as the final fiscal 2020 Legislative Branch spending draft, released Monday, keeps salaries stagnant. 

The Legislative Branch section of an eight-bill package, one of two sets of appropriations bills to fund the government through next September, provides $5.1 billion in total discretionary funding for congressional operations. That would be up from $4.8 billion in fiscal 2019 funding. 

Campus notebook: Which impeachment lawyer makes more?
PCP arrest by the Capitol complex and Sen. David Perdue buys a lot of CBS, FedEx and Urban Outfitters stock

Two lawyers with prominent roles in the House impeachment inquiry — Stephen Castor, the Republican general counsel for the Oversight Committee, and Daniel Goldman, a senior adviser for the Intelligence Committee Democrats — testified alongside one another Monday. One difference between the two, besides the parties they represent on their respective panels, is their salaries.

According to payroll records from August, Castor makes an annual salary of $165,000—that’s $3,000 more than Goldman makes.

Try again: Lofgren rejects House clerk’s eyebrow-raising choice
2018 college graduate recommended to lead staff after Rep. Sean Duffy resignation

Rep. Sean Duffy left Congress months ago, but his office remains without a chief after a key lawmaker rejected an attempt to install a recent college graduate with no legislative experience and who is the daughter of a House official.

Duffy’s last chief of staff, Pete Meachum, departed the post on Dec. 6.

J. Brett Blanton on track to become next architect of the Capitol
Nominee was most recently deputy vice president for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority

Most of J. Brett Blanton’s nomination hearing before the Senate Rules Committee to be the next architect of the Capitol on Thursday was essentially a one-on-one public interview between him and Chairman Roy Blunt, as the remaining 18 members of the committee were absent for the majority of the hearing.

No opposition to Blanton, a Virginia resident, is evident, making him likely to be confirmed as the 12th architect of the Capitol. If confirmed, Blanton said he expects to start leading the agency by mid-January.

James Lankford to chair Senate Ethics Committee
Oklahoma Republican will take over for Johnny Isakson, who is resigning at the end of the year

Sen. James Lankford will take over as chairman of the Ethics Committee, succeeding Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson, who will retire at the end of the year, according to a senior Republican aide.

The Oklahoma Republican will lead a six-member, bipartisan committee charged with investigating violations of Senate rules. The committee’s most recent actions were in April 2018, when it published a public letter of admonition to Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.

Campus Notebook: President nominates pick for Architect of the Capitol

President Donald Trump on Monday nominated J. Brett Blanton to be the next Architect of the Capitol for a 10-year stint.

If confirmed by the Senate, Blanton would provide stability to the helm of an agency that has been led by a succession of acting directors. Christine Merdon, an acting director, announced her resignation in August and was replaced by Thomas Carroll, who worked in the same capacity. The Architect of the Capitol is responsible for maintaining the facilities on the Capitol complex as well as renovations.

Duncan Hunter and the case of rabbit flights, NFL Red Zone, HBO and more
Office of Congressional Ethics details soon-to-be-former member’s use of campaign money

An Office of Congressional Ethics report released Monday shows in detail how Duncan Hunter’s campaign committee spent money on a range of personal expenses, including flights for a pet bunny rabbit, NFL Red Zone, Jack in the Box, Starbucks and family trips to Italy and Hawaii.

The OCE report was released by the House Ethics Committee, a panel that will lose its jurisdiction over Hunter when the California Republican resigns after the holidays. Hunter, who represents the 50th Congressional District of California, pleaded guilty last week to campaign finance fraud and subsequently announced his impending resignation.

Bill Huizenga: Our beer is better than your beer
Michigan Republican touts Grand Rapids brew over Asheville, N.C.

Rep. Bill Huizenga’s interview with the Office of Congressional Ethics regarding an investigation into whether he complied with campaign finance rules yielded some other interesting insights about his diet at Harry Potter World and whom he trash-talks with about beer.

During his July 10 interview, the Michigan Republican was asked by OCE what happens when a member of Congress is invited as a special guest to support a colleague’s fundraiser and who benefits from the funds donated.