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

September 5, 1996

Honorable Nancy Johnson
Chairwoman
House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct
HT-2, The Capitol
U. S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairwoman Johnson:

This letter constitutes a formal ethics complaint against House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Elmer Greinert "Bud" Shuster (R-PA) and a call for an outside counsel investigation into whether Representative Shuster violated criminal prohibitions against the acceptance of illegal gratuities, as well as House Rules. These charges arise from the complex relationship between Representative Shuster and lobbyist Ann Eppard, and Rep. Shuster's interventions with federal agencies on behalf of a business partner of his sons.

We are writing pursuant to House Rule 10, which authorizes the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct 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."

The Congressional Accountability Project sent a letter to U. S. Attorney General Janet Reno on February 28, 1996 urging the Department of Justice to investigate many of these charges, as well as the appearance that Ann Eppard may have violated the one-year post-employment prohibition against personal staff lobbying their former employer.(1)

We believe the Ethics Committee must respond to the enormous public appearance problem arising from the tangled web of legislative, political, financial, and personal ties between Representative Shuster and lobbyist Ann Eppard. This unseemly relationship between Representative Shuster and Eppard has become a serious threat to the integrity of the legislative process. Public confidence in the Congress and the legislative process is low, and is vulnerable to appearances that particular lobbyists are able to obtain special legislative favors for their clients which are unavailable to most citizens.

For 22 years, Congressman Bud Shuster employed Ann Eppard as his top Congressional aide. Eppard left Shuster's Congressional payroll immediately after the November 1994 elections to become President of Ann Eppard Associates, Ltd., which is a lobbying firm that primarily represents transportation interests before Chairman Shuster's Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.

According to the Journal of Commerce, "Ann Eppard brought in more than $600,000 in revenue from transportation clients in her first year as a lobbyist."(2) She has represented a long list of transportation-related clients before Chairman Shuster's committee, including Amtrak, Conrail, the Outdoor Advertisers Association of America, Frito-Lay Inc., Federal Express Corp., the American Road and Transportation Builders, Fastship Atlantic Inc., and the Ocean Common Carrier Coalition.

Articles in the Journal of Commerce and Roll Call have described how lobbyist Eppard and House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Shuster have developed a complex interconnecting web of legislative, political, financial, and personal ties. Lobbyist Ann Eppard plays many important roles in Shuster's life, including:

Ms. Eppard plays a crucial role in [Shuster's] district affairs. In recent months, she represented Mr. Shuster on a local advisory committee on the closure of the Letterkenny Army Depot in his rural, central Pennsylvania district. She also interviewed candidates for county commissioner posts and advised Mr. Shuster on which candidates warrant his political backing.(8) Shuster plays a similarly large role in Eppard's life: According to the Roll Call and Wall Street Journal articles, Rep. Shuster has often been staying overnight at Eppard's $823,000 Virginia waterfront house. If Rep. Shuster has not been paying rent for the fair market value of the accommodations she has provided, then he may have violated House gift rules. The previous House gift rule, in effect until December 31, 1995, prohibited members of Congress from accepting gifts of more than $250, "except to the extent permitted by written waiver granted in exceptional circumstances by the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct..."(18)

Furthermore, the House Ethics Manual states that:

House Rule 10 prohibits the Ethics Committee from issuing retroactive waivers.(20) Consequently, if Rep. Shuster has received personal hospitality for more than 30 days in any calendar year before December 31, 1995, and if he neither received a formal waiver nor paid rent to Ms. Eppard, he may have violated the old gift rule.

The new gift rule, effective January 1, 1996, prevents House members from receiving many types of gifts from lobbyists. Even though Ms. Eppard may qualify for the "personal friendship" exemption to the gift rule, there is still a prohibition against Members accepting:

Given the high price of lodging in and around the District of Columbia, the value of the lodging provided to Rep. Shuster by Ms. Eppard surely exceeds the $250 limit on gifts from personal friends. That likely places Rep. Shuster in violation of the House Rule 52, unless he has paid rent to Ms. Eppard, or received a prior formal waiver from the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. In a letter to Rep. Shuster, the Ethics Committee noted that: To our knowledge, no such formal waiver or written opinion has been given to Rep. Shuster from the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct regarding whether he may lodge with Ms. Eppard.

Finally, on the issue of gifts, the House Code of Official Conduct states that:

On legislative matters, Ann Eppard has apparently produced significant benefits for some of her clients seeking action on transportation-related issues pending before Chairman Shuster's committee. Following is a list of some clients of Ann Eppard Associates, and the legislative outcomes they received: Jim Drinkard of the Associated Press described these same developments in the Memphis Commercial Appeal: Frito-Lay Inc. paid Ann Eppard Associates at least $10,000 in fees during 1995.(27) At the hearing, Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Shuster said that "it is time for us to get tough"(29) in the trade dispute with Japanese air cargo carriers.

Federal Express paid Ann Eppard Associates at least $18,333 in fees during 1995.(30)

Diane Steinle of the St. Petersburg Times described Chairman Shuster's efforts on behalf of the billboard industry: The Outdoor Advertisers Association of America paid Ann Eppard Associates at least $20,000 in fees during 1995.(33) The Washington Post described a meeting among House Republicans on May 4, 1995, where Rep. Shuster objected to parts of Rep. John Kasich's (R-OH) plan to balance the federal budget. The BNA Daily Labor Report quoted Amtrak spokesman Clifford Black saying that Amtrak was "delighted" with the House's passage of the Amtrak Reform and Privatization Act, which was "crafted by Rep. Bud Shuster and Rep. Susan Molinari."(36)

Amtrak paid Ann Eppard Associates $100,000 in fees during 1995.(37)

Given the extensive interweaving of legislative, political, financial, and personal interests between Rep. Shuster and lobbyist Eppard, and their unusual mutual support efforts for one another, as documented in the Journal of Commerce and Roll Call articles, there is sufficient evidence to call into question whether Representative Bud Shuster and Ann Eppard have conformed their conduct to the letter of the law. In particular, we are concerned that section 201 of the U.S. Criminal Code has been triggered by their activities.

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..." We request that the Ethics Committee conduct a preliminary inquiry into whether illegal gratuities were exchanged, and, if necessary, to forward the relevant findings to the Justice Department.

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 remarkable symbiotic network that Eppard and Shuster operated on each other's behalf raises the clear likelihood -- and provides substantial circumstantial evidence to support the conclusion -- that section 201 may have been triggered. We strongly encourage the Ethics Committee to undertake a vigorous investigation to determine whether such violations did occur.

The House Ethics Manual cautions House Members against improperly intervening with federal agencies on behalf of campaign contributors or others who have provided special favors or benefits to members of Congress. The Ethics Manual quotes with approval the following passage from the Investigation of Senator Alan Cranston, regarding the Keating Five matter: Rep. Shuster may have violated this standard of conduct by intervening with two federal agencies on behalf of businessman Maurice Lawruk. Timothy Burger of Roll Call wrote on April 29, 1996: The April 29 Roll Call article describes the following series of events: These interventions on behalf of Maurice Lawruk may well violate the standards of conduct preventing Rep. Shuster from intervening with federal agencies on behalf persons who have provided special favors or benefits to him.

Finally, the Ethics Committee should determine what benefits from the Shuster Chrysler dealership have inured to Rep. Shuster. Rep. Shuster may well be a co-beneficiary of the Shuster Chrysler dealership. If so, then any interventions made by Rep. Shuster on behalf of Lawruk must be seen in this light.

The complex network of interests shared and fostered between House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bud Shuster and lobbyist Ann Eppard bears a close resemblance to the disturbing alliance between ex-Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bob Packwood and lobbyist Ronald Crawford. Such close-knit symbiotic entanglements between a member of Congress and a lobbyist inevitably bring shame upon the Congress. These unseemly alliances between a member of Congress and a lobbyist lead to the appearance that those wealthy enough to pay the pricey fees of top lobbyists may receive special legislative favors or benefits. But the majority of Americans -- who cannot afford to hire such lobbyists -- cannot affect the legislative process in a similar fashion.

The Ethics Committee should immediately appoint an outside counsel who can disentangle the interconnected mutual network of favors, benefits, and interests enjoyed by Representative Bud Shuster and Ann Eppard to determine whether criminal laws and House Rules were violated. We believe that the strong circumstantial evidence indicating that such violations of law may have occurred clearly warrants such an investigation. Anything less than a vigorous investigation pursued by an outside counsel will further strain the credibility of the Ethics Committee, and further erode the public's trust in the House ethics process.

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 E. G. "Bud" Shuster, at the following address:

Representative Elmer Greinert "Bud" Shuster
2188 Rayburn House Office Building
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
 

Gary Ruskin
Complainant


Endnotes

1. See Attachment #1, which includes the February 28, 1996 Congressional Accountability Project letter to Attorney General Janet Reno. William L. Roberts, "Congressional Watchdog Group Calls for Investigation of Shuster, Eppard." Journal of Commerce, February 28, 1996. Timothy J. Burger, "Justice Dept. Reviews Shuster Charges." Roll Call, February 29, 1996.

2. William L. Roberts, "Lobbyist's '95 Revenue Could Top $1 Million." Journal of Commerce, February 8, 1996. See Attachment #2.

3. Journal of Commerce, February 8, 1996.

4. William L. Roberts, "Aide's Ties Raise Ethical Questions." Journal of Commerce, July 31, 1995. See Attachment #3.

5. See Attachment #4, which includes Timothy J. Burger, "Transportation Chair Lodges With Ex-Aide Who Makes Six Figures Lobbying His Panel." Roll Call, February 8, 1996. "Investigate Shuster." Editorial, Roll Call, February 12, 1996. Karen Tumulty, "The Ties That Bind." Time, February 26, 1996. Jill Abramson, "Emergence of Single-Member Lobbying Raises Fresh Concerns in Post-Packwood Washington." Wall Street Journal, September 20, 1995. "Dynamic Duo." Editorial, New York Times, March 16, 1996. William L. Roberts, "Lawmaker, Lobbyist Ties Under Scrutiny." Journal of Commerce, February 12, 1996. "Shuster & Ethics." Editorial, Roll Call, February 22, 1996.

6. Timothy J. Burger, "Two Shusters Are Running for Congress, Both Aided by Fundraising Help of Lobbyist Eppard." Roll Call, February 12, 1996. See Attachment #5.

7. Roll Call, February 8, 1996.

8. Journal of Commerce, July 31, 1995.

9. "Shuster, Inc." Editorial, Roll Call, May 2, 1996. See Attachment #6.

10. Journal of Commerce, February 8, 1996.

11. Roll Call, February 8, 1996.

12. Roll Call, February 8, 1996. See also David Bauman, "Shuster Target of Unflattering Publicity." Gannett News Service, February 8, 1996.

13. Journal of Commerce, July 31, 1995.

14. Phil Kuntz, "Pennsylvania's Rep. Shuster Stayed at Home of Ex-Aide, Now a Lobbyist." Wall Street Journal, February 9, 1996. See Attachment #7.

15. Roll Call, February 8, 1996.

16. Journal of Commerce, February 8, 1996.

17. Roll Call, February 8, 1996.

18. House Rule 43, Clause 4.

19. House Ethics Manual at 29.

20. House Rule 10, Clause 4(e)(1)(D).

21. House Rule 52, sec. 1(e)

22. From "Questions asked by Congressman Bud Shuster," which is attached to Correspondence from House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct Chairman Nancy L. Johnson and Ranking Democratic Member Jim McDermott to Rep. Bud Shuster, June 13, 1996. The interior quote is House Bipartisan Task Force on Ethics, Report on H.R. 3660, 101st Cong.,1st Sess., 135 Cong. Rec. H9255 (daily ed. Nov. 21, 1989.). Attachment #8 also includes William Roberts, "House GOP Pushes Ethics Clearance for Shuster." Journal of Commerce, June 13, 1996. Damon Chappie and Juliet Eilperin, "Ethics Spars Over Plan to Clear Rep. Shuster." Roll Call, June 13, 1996. "D'Amato & Shuster." Editorial, Roll Call, June 13, 1996. Juliet Eilperin, "Unusual Ethics Letter Suggests He Needed Waivers." Roll Call, June 17, 1996. William Roberts, "Ethics Hands Shuster Neutral Letter." Journal of Commerce, June 18, 1996.

23. House Rule 13, clause 3.

24. See Attachment #9 which includes William L. Roberts, "Eppard's Clients Win Some, Lose Some." Journal of Commerce, February 8, 1996. William L. Roberts, "Frito Hires Eppard to Lobby on Truck Rules." Journal of Commerce, November 9, 1995.

25. Jim Drinkard, "Firms Win Concession on Safety for Trucks." The Commercial Appeal, September 30, 1995. See Attachment #10.

26. Wall Street Journal, February 9, 1996.

27. "Eppard's Clients." Journal of Commerce, February 8, 1996.

28. Journal of Commerce, February 8, 1996. See also Attachment #11, which includes William Roberts, "Republican Strategy for FedEx Falls Flat." Journal of Commerce, May 29, 1996.

29. "Airlines Support Hard Line in Dispute with Japan as New Round of Talks Begins." Bureau of National Affairs, Daily Report for Executives, July 21, 1995. See Attachment #12.

30. Journal of Commerce, February 8, 1996.

31. Journal of Commerce, February 8, 1996. See also Attachment #13 which includes William L. Roberts, "Billboard Rift Blots Landscape of Highway Spending Talks." Journal of Commerce, November 8, 1995.

32. Diane Steinle, "Washington Insider Aids Outdoor Advertisers." St. Petersburg Times, September 13, 1995. See Attachment #14.

33. Journal of Commerce, February 8, 1996.

34. Journal of Commerce, February 8, 1996.

35. David Maraniss and Michael Weisskopf, "Coaxing GOP Factions to Toe the Budget Line." Washington Post, May 26, 1995. See Attachment #15.

36. "House Approved Amtrak Reform Bill That Would Change Labor Provisions." Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. Daily Labor Report, December 1, 1995. See Attachment #16.

37. Journal of Commerce, February 8, 1996.

38. House Ethics Manual at 250-251 quoting the Senate Select Committee on Ethics, Investigation of Senator Alan Cranston, S. Rep. No. 102-223, 102d Cong., 1st Sess. 11-12 (1991).

39. Timothy J. Burger, "Shuster Intervened for Sons' Business Partner." Roll Call, April 29, 1996. See Attachment #17.