Chabot staffer gets in trouble
Malia Rulon reports:
WASHINGTON – A staff member in Rep. Steve Chabot’s office has attracted the wrong kind of attention by sending a political message during working hours using his House e-mail address, a violation of ethics rules.
According to a copy of the e-mail posted on the Daily Kos blog Friday, the staff member forwarded an e-mail message asking staff at congressional offices that might have “interns sitting around” to send them to the Republican National Committee to make phone calls for Jim Oberweis.
Oberweis, a Republican, lost a special election in Illinois Saturday to replace former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.
Congressional staff members are allowed to take part in political activities, such as making campaign phone calls, but only during nonworking hours. They are barred from using congressional computers, e-mail, phones or other office equipment in any campaign-related work.
“It might be a good idea if Steve Chabot’s office spent a little less time meddling in Illinois congressional races and a little more time focusing on the issues that Ohioans care about,” Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Alex Goepfert said in a news release Monday blasting Chabot for the incident.
Chabot spokesman Todd Lindgren said the staff member, Matthew Lillibridge, forwarded the e-mail to all Ohio press secretaries, both Republican and Democrat, before realizing that the e-mail from the National Republican Congressional Committee was political in nature.
“Why they sent it to an official House e-mail account, I have no idea,” Lindgren said. “They never should have sent this to an official account.”
A spokeswoman for the NRCC did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Lindgren said shortly after Lillibridge sent the e-mail, he read it and realized it was political and immediately recalled it. He then notified his superiors in Chabot’s office.
“He feels awful. There was no intent to violate House rules,” Lindgren said, explaining that Lillibridge is a 23-year-old staff assistant who just got out of school and mostly answers phones, opens mail and gives tours.
Chabot chief of staff Mike Smullen has sent a letter to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct explaining what happened and requesting additional ethics training for Lillibridge.
It was unclear whether Lillibridge would keep his job or whether the ethics panel would investigate.
Meanwhile, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Ryan Rudominer said the incident could be indicative of a larger problem in Chabot’s office.
“Congressman Steve Chabot faces a really tough re-election and this violation raises questions as to what other activities are taking place in his congressional office on the taxpayer’s dime,” Rudominer said.
Chabot’s opponent, Democrat Steven Driehaus, agreed.
“I don’t doubt that the congressman knows the rules, but it does beg the question of what else is going on in his office that he’s not aware of?” Driehaus said.
Driehaus, a state representative, said he has made it “crystal clear” in his office that there is a separation between political activity and government work.
“I am a little disturbed when I see what appears to be ... comments like, ‘Well, he’s young and he didn’t know any better,’” Driehaus said. “That doesn’t cut it for me. They are taking cues from their superiors.”