Congressional Accountability Project
1611 Connecticut Ave. NW Suite #3A
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 296-2787
fax (202) 833-2406

December 28, 1998

Honorable James Hansen, Chairman
Honorable Howard Berman, Ranking Member
House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct
HT-2, The Capitol
U. S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representatives Hansen and Berman:

This letter constitutes a formal request for an inquiry into whether Representative Dan Burton (R-IN), Chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, has:

A. Defrauded the federal government by keeping a ghost employee, Claudia Keller, on his congressional payroll, in violation of federal law and House Rules;
B. Defrauded his own campaign committee, and converted campaign funds to personal use, by keeping two ghost employees, Claudia Keller and Sharon Delph, on his campaign payroll, in violation of federal law and House Rules;
C. Extorted campaign contributions, along with a member of his staff, Dan Moll, and solicited campaign funds in congressional offices, in violation of federal law; and,
D. Misused congressional funds, offices, resources and staff for campaign purposes, in violation of federal law and House Rules.

This request for inquiry is pursuant to House Rule 10, which authorizes the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct ("Ethics Committee") to investigate "any alleged violation, by a Member...of the Code of Official Conduct or of any law, rule, regulation or other standard of conduct applicable to the conduct of such Member...in the performance of his duties or the discharge of his responsibilities..."(1)

We provide this information to prompt the Ethics Committee to appoint an investigative subcommittee and an outside counsel to investigate these matters. Ethics Committee Rule 19(a) states that "the Committee may consider any information in its possession indicating that a Member...may have committed a violation of the Code of Official Conduct or any law, rule, regulation, or other standard of conduct applicable to the conduct of such Member...in the performance of his or her duties or the discharge of his or her responsibilities."
 

A Salon Magazine article by Russ Baker suggests that Chairman Burton may have kept a ghost employee, Claudia Keller, on his congressional payroll, perhaps as part of a larger effort by Chairman Burton to provide financial resources for Keller and her family. According to Salon,
 
* * * * *
The Indianapolis Star asked Chairman Burton about Claudia Keller's official work product:
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The Washington Post quoted Burton spokesman John Williams describing Keller's official work: The Ethics Committee should evaluate whether Claudia Keller performs official work commensurate with her salary, and whether she is or has been a ghost employee. If she is or has been a ghost employee, then Chairman Burton and Keller may have engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the United States government. Such a conspiracy may have existed if Chairman Burton has submitted payroll forms for Claudia Keller, and Keller collected salary from the federal government while performing little or no official work. Criminal law, at 18 U.S.C. § 371, creates an offense, Furthermore, federal law broadly prohibits the use of government resources -- including congressional staff time -- for personal or non-official purposes. The Ethics Committee should determine whether Claudia Keller's congressional employment is consistent with this prohibition. If Keller is or has been a ghost employee, Chairman Burton is likely in violation of 31 U.S.C. § 1301(a): Similarly, the House Code of Official Conduct states that: The House Ethics Manual contains a parallel warning that: Finally, a recent Ethics Committee memorandum states that: The Ethics Committee should determine whether Claudia Keller kept such time records, and should scrutinize those records, if they exist, to discover whether she has performed sufficient official work to justify her taxpayer-funded salary. In any case, the Ethics Committee should determine whether Chairman Burton has cheated the federal government out of money by hiring a ghost employee.
  The Salon article suggests that Chairman Burton may have maintained two ghost employees, Claudia Keller and Sharon Delph, on his campaign payroll: The Ethics Committee should determine whether Chairman Burton's employment, on his campaign payroll, of Claudia Keller, members of Keller's family, and Sharon Delph, constitutes conversion of campaign funds to personal use and hiring ghost campaign employees, and whether it is part of a larger pattern of fraudulent misuse of campaign funds. Federal law prohibits the conversion of campaign funds to personal use: Similarly, the House Code of Official Conduct states that: The Salon article, as well as previous accounts of Chairman Burton's fundraising practices, suggest that there may be a pattern of extortion emanating from Chairman Burton's congressional offices. According to Salon, The seriousness of the Salon report is heightened by a previous account of Chairman Burton's efforts to extort campaign contributions. In 1997, The Washington Post reported that: The Salon article quotes Mark Siegel's descriptions of Chairman Burton's fundraising tactics: The Ethics Committee should investigate the fundraising practices of Chairman Burton and Dan Moll to ascertain whether they have extorted campaign contributions from persons with official business pending before the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, or Congress. If the accounts described in Salon and The Washington Post are correct, then Chairman Burton and/or Dan Moll may have triggered the Hobbs Act, which prohibits: Both the accounts in Salon and The Washington Post contain elements of coercion and quid pro quo which suggest that a violation of the Hobbs Act may have occurred.

Irrespective of any extortion that may have taken place, congressional offices are intended for congressional work, not campaign solicitations. The Ethics Committee should determine whether Chairman Burton and Dan Moll have solicited campaign contributions from congressional offices. If they have solicited campaign contributions from Chairman Burton's personal or committee offices, they are likely in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 607(a):

A recent Ethics Committee memorandum further clarifies the application of this statute to the House of Representatives: The Ethics Committee should interview Jeffrey Senter, Ray O'Malley, Mark Siegel, Steve Williams, and former members of Chairman Burton's personal and committee staff to assess whether Chairman Burton and Dan Moll have extorted campaign contributions, or solicited campaign contributions from congressional offices.
  The Salon article suggests that Chairman Burton and his staff may be misusing official congressional resources - including staff, offices, phones, and fax machines - for campaign purposes. Any such campaign use of official resources would likely be in violation of 31 U.S.C. § 1301(a): Similarly, a recent Ethics Committee memorandum states that: The Ethics Committee should interview Jeffrey Senter, Ray O'Malley, Mark Siegel, Steve Williams, and Chairman Burton's former personal and committee staff to determine the extent of Chairman Burton's use of official resources for campaign purposes.
  We urge the Ethics Committee to promptly appoint an investigative subcommittee and outside counsel investigate the matters set forth above. Outside counsel should be a routine part of congressional ethics investigations, but it is imperative in this case, which involves an investigation of a powerful chairman of a full House committee.
 

Sincerely,
 
 

Gary Ruskin
Director


ENDNOTES
1. House Rule 10, clause 4(e)(2).

2. Russ Baker, "Portrait of a Political 'Pit Bull.'" Salon Magazine, 22 December 1998. See Attachment #1.

3. Mary Beth Schneider and John Strauss, "Sixth U.S. District; Sub-plots Enrich a Race of Strange Political Twists." The Indianapolis Star, 18 October 1998. See Attachment #2.

4. Juliet Eilperin and Howard Kurtz, "Burton Aide's Dual Roles Questioned; Records Show Nearly $500,000 Has Gone to Staffer Since 1990." The Washington Post, 23 December 1998. See Attachment #3.

5. House Rule 43, clause 8.

6. House Ethics Manual at 193.

7. James V. Hansen, Chairman; Howard L. Berman, Ranking Democratic Member; House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. Memorandum on "Rules and Standards of Conduct Relating to Campaign Activity." 14 September 1998.

8. 2 U.S.C. § 439(a). See also 11 C.F.R. part 113.

9. House Rule 43, clause 6.

10. Charles R. Babcock, "Pakistan Lobbyist's Memo Alleges Shakedown by House Probe Leader." The Washington Post, 19 March 1997. See Attachment #4.

11. 18 U.S.C § 1951.

12. James V. Hansen, Chairman; Howard L. Berman, Ranking Democratic Member; House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. Memorandum on "Rules Governing (1) Solicitation by Members, Officers and Employees in General, and (2) Political Fundraising Activity in House Offices." 25 April 1997.

13. James V. Hansen, Chairman; Howard L. Berman, Ranking Democratic Member; House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. Memorandum on "Rules and Standards of Conduct Relating to Campaign Activity." 14 September 1998.