Censures and Reprimands

The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

The House Ethics Committee released a report today recommending that Congresswoman Laura Richardson be officially reprimanded by the House of Representatives for “improperly using House resources for campaign, personal, and nonofficial purposes; by requiring or compelling her official staff to perform campaign work; and by obstructing the investigation of the Committee and the ISC through the alteration or destruction of evidence, the deliberate failure to produce documents responsive to requests for information and a subpoena, and attempting to influence the testimony of witnesses.”

If adopted, Richardson would become the first Californian to be receiving this level of rebuke in more than three decades. Although the records are a little bit hazy, here is a somewhat complete history of reprimands and censures in California:

  • August 2012 – The House of Representatives reprimanded Laura Richardson for use of House resources for campaign and personal purposes, compelled congressional staff to work on her campaign and obstructed the committee investigation “through the alteration or destruction of evidence” and “the deliberate failure to produce documents.”
  • January 1982 – The State Senate passed SR 29 (by Senator Roberti) which censured John G. Schmitz for comments he made about abortion rights advocates at a press conference in Los Angeles. (Go ahead and Google the terms “John G. Schmitz” and “Gloria Allred”).
  • June 1980 – The House of Representatives censured Charles H. Wilson for financial misconduct (improper use of campaign funds). He is the only California congressman to be censured. He was defeated in the 1980 primary.
  • 1978 – In relation to the Korean Influence Investigation, the House of Representatives reprimanded Charles H. Wilson for making false statements to a House committee, and John J. McFall for failure to report campaign contributions. In the same year, Edward Roybal was reprimanded for BOTH failure to report campaign contributions and making false statements to a House committee. McFall resigned in the wake of the scandal.
  • 1862 – Assemblyman R. D. Ferguson was censured by the Assembly after assaulting Speaker Barstow during the floor session on April 9, 1862. Barstow had ruled Ferguson out of order on a procedural matter, which really made Ferguson angry (You don’t want to see Ferguson when he’s angry).

A number of other elected officials have been officially sanctioned at levels of severity less than formal censure or reprimand. In 1989, Congressman Jim Bates admitted to sexual harassment and improper campaign activity in his congressional office and the House Committee on Ethics adopted a public letter of reproval. In 1995, Walter Tucker resigned just days after an expulsion resolution was filed against him. Substantial charges against Jay Kim and Andrew J. Hinshaw were dropped when each lost their primary elections.


Updated 8/2/2012 @ 8:41 PM: The House voted today to officially reprimand Laura Richardson.