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California Congresswoman’s Redistricting Shenanigans Catch Eye of Ethics Committee

Per Politico, Rep. Laura Richardson used taxpayer-funded staff and resources in her campaign to manipulate California’s independent redistricting commission.

California Congresswoman Laura Richardson is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for directing her staff to use government resources for redistricting work, according to a Politico story Feb. 13.

Richardson and her staffers, according to the story, recruited and trained citizens to testify before the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, even providing them with canned testimony, anonymous individuals told Politico.

Asked for comment, Richardson’s attorney sent ProPublica astatement calling the allegations in the Politico story “groundless,” adding that “to date, the House Ethics Committee has not issued any recommendations, conclusions or findings of any kind.”

The statement says Richardson is committed to following the law and House Ethics rules.

The rules allow limited redistricting work on taxpayers’ dime, but working outside the representative’s district and organizing testimony are likely violations. (Here is the fulltextoftherules.)

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission was created by the state’s voters with the promise of removing political influence from the drawing of new district lines — a high-stakes process that can guarantee a representative a safe seat, or virtually ensure defeat in the next election. To that effect, the commission pledged to use citizen testimony — not the wishes of politicians — as its main basis for decision-making.

But Richardson’s alleged tampering with the commission by manipulating public testimony would not have been unique. As ProPublica detailed in December, California’s entire Democratic congressional delegation held meetings in Washington, D.C., to strategize about ways to manipulate the commission. We found other members of Congress using a front group, drummed-up testimony and other means to dupe the commission into drawing the districts they wanted.

In an email obtained by ProPublica, members were told to begin “strategizing about potential future district lines." As we noted, one staffer on California’s delegation sent more than 100 email messages about redistricting. The House Ethics Committee did not respond to our request for comment about the investigation, and whether it may go beyond Richardson.

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