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



September 25, 1997
 

Honorable James Hansen, Chairman
Honorable Howard Berman, Ranking Minority 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 ethics complaint against U. S. Representative Jerry Costello (D-IL) and a call for an investigation into whether Representative Costello violated criminal prohibitions against the acceptance of an illegal gratuity or a bribe, whether he violated federal financial disclosure requirements, and whether he tried to obstruct a federal gambling investigation. According to news reports, Rep. Costello was an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial of Amiel Cueto, who was convicted on June 11, 1997 of one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and three counts of obstructing justice.(1)

We are writing 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, officer or employee of the House, of the Code of Official Conduct or of any law, rule, regulation or standard of conduct applicable to the conduct of such member, officer, or employee in the performance of his duties or the discharge of his responsibilities."

A "stipulation of facts" between Thomas Venezia, his attorney, and Assistant United States Attorneys Miriam F. Miquelon and Norman R. Smith states that: During the trial of Amiel Cueto, Assistant United States Attorney Miriam Miquelon and Thomas Venezia expanded on these details. According to Charles Bosworth Jr. of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, At Amiel Cueto's trial, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Assistant United States Attorney Miriam Miquelon said These are serious allegations, made by an Assistant United States Attorney, in open court. Assistant United States Attorney Miquelon has shown documents in court which, she says, demonstrate that Rep. Costello held an ownership interest in the Front Street property. The Ethics Committee should request and obtain the relevant documents shown by Miquelon in court, and evaluate whether Rep. Costello had any ownership, either beneficial or real, over the property on Front Street in East St. Louis.

House Rule 10 authorizes the Ethics Committee to "investigate...any alleged violation, by a Member, officer, or employee of the House, of the Code of Official Conduct or of any law, rule, regulation, or other standard of conduct applicable to the conduct of such Member..." Certainly, possible violations of bribery or illegal gratuities laws are within the purview of the Ethics Committee.

Federal bribery law, 18 U.S.C. §201, states that it is a crime for a federal official to "directly or indirectly, corruptly" receive or solicit "anything of value personally or for any other person or entity, in return for...being influenced in the performance of any official act." Criminal law on illegal gratuities, 18 U.S.C. §201, prohibits a federal official from directly or indirectly soliciting or receiving anything of value other than "as provided by law...for or because of any official act performed or to be performed."

The Ethics Reform Act of 1989 requires members of the House of Representatives to prepare annual financial disclosure statements. According to the House Ethics Manual, "Financial Disclosure Statements must indicate outside compensation, holdings, and business transactions, generally for the calendar year preceding the filing date."(5)

Assistant United States Attorney Miquelon's statements and descriptions of documents in open court suggest that Rep. Costello may have violated provisions regarding disclosure of assets and business transactions. The Ethics Committee should evaluate the veracity of Rep. Costello's financial disclosure reports, which contain no mention of the DKCO casino or the Front Street property.

If Rep. Costello was a "silent partner" in the casino deal with Venezia and Cueto, then Costello may have violated House Rules prohibitions regarding voting on matters of personal interest when he voted to extend federal recognition to the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians.(6) House Rule 8 states that every House Member "shall vote on each question put, unless he has a direct personal or pecuniary interest in the event of such question."

At the trial of Amiel Cueto, testimony from State's Attorney Bob Haida suggests that Rep. Costello may have attempted to assist Cueto in derailing the federal gambling investigation of Cueto and his business partner, Thomas Venezia. On May 2, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that: The Ethics Committee should review this testimony and other evidence to determine whether Rep. Costello was obstructing the investigation of Cueto and Venezia. It should also determine whether -- even if Costello was not obstructing justice -- he was violating the House Code of Official Conduct by bringing dishonor to the House of Representatives. Members of the House of Representatives should not obstruct prosecutorial investigations of their friends. The House Code of Official Conduct states that:

A Member, Officer, or employee of the House of Representatives shall conduct himself at all times in a manner which shall reflect creditably on the House of Representatives.(8)
 

D: Conclusion
 

The allegations against Rep. Costello made by Assistant United States Attorney Miriam Miquelon's statements in court are serious and warrant an investigation by the Ethics Committee. We urge you to obtain evidence presented in court regarding whether Rep. Costello had an ownership interest in the Front Street property. If he did, then we strongly urge you to and authorize outside counsel in this case as soon as possible.

Sincerely,
 

Gary Ruskin
Director



Certificate of Service



This is to certify that I have today, by hand delivery, provided an exact copy of this complaint to the Respondent in this matter, Representative Jerry F. Costello, at the following address:
 

Representative Jerry F. Costello
2454 Rayburn House Office Building
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
 

Gary Ruskin
Complainant


Footnotes

1. Charles Bosworth Jr., "Costello is Unindicted Co-Conspirator." St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 4, 1997. Attachment #1 also includes Charles Bosworth Jr., "Cueto Found Guilty on 4 Counts; Investigation Goes on, Prosecutor Tells Court." St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 12, 1997.

2. Stipulation of Facts, according to Thomas Venezia, Douglas A. Forsyth, Assistant United States Attorney Miriam Miquelon, and Assistant United States Attorney Norman R. Smith, March 24, 1997. Filed in United States of America v. Thomas Venezia, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Criminal No. 96 CR 30070 SNL. See Attachment #2.

3. Charles Bosworth Jr., "Venezia Talks of Three-Way Casino Deal." St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 17, 1997. Attachment #3 also includes Charles Bosworth Jr., "Lawyer Ties Costello to Casino Plan; Cueto Revealed Link, Witness Testifies During Casino Plan." St. Louis Post Dispatch, May 20, 1997.

4. Charles Bosworth Jr., "Cueto Defense Attacks Venezia." St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 10, 1997. See Attachment #4.

5. House Ethics Manual at 160.

6. "Restoration of Federal Services to the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians." Congressional Record, 140 Cong. Rec. H6721-32, August 3, 1994. See Attachment #5.

7. Charles Bosworth Jr., "Costello Sought Post for Cueto, Haida Testifies." St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 2, 1997. See Attachment #6.

8. House Rule 43, Clause 1.