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Zoe Lofgren sued by fellow Dem over censure

Rep. Zoe Lofgren has been sued by another Democratic House member who claims he was wrongly censured for ethical violations while Lofgren chaired the Ethics Committee.

The federal lawsuit filed Monday in Washington, D.C., by Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., also names House Speaker John Boehner and a slew of Ethics Committee members and staffers. Boehner wasn’t yet Speaker in December 2010 when the House voted 333-79 to censure Rangel, but does now have the power to remove the action from the Congressional Record.

Rangel’s lawsuit claims Lofgren, D-San Jose, and Jo Bonner, R-Ala., then the Ethics Committee’s ranking Republican, “knowingly deceived” the House before the vote, “knowing then that their statements were false.” Evidence was withheld that could’ve helped clear him, he claims.

Lofgren specifically “deceptively misrepresented what had occurred during the proceedings before the committee” when advising the House that Rangel’s “pre-vote proceedings were conducted fairly, honestly, without bias and according to the law, when she knew this was not so.”

Lofgren declined to comment Tuesday.

Per the Associated Press, the committee found that Rangel had underpaid the IRS for 17 years by failing to pay taxes on income from a rental unit in a Dominican Republic resort, had filed misleading financial disclosure reports, had set up a campaign office in the Harlem building where he lived that had been designated for residential use only and had used congressional letterheads to solicit donations for a center named after him at City College of New York.

It was only the 23rd time in the House’s history that a member was censured, the most severe punishment short of expulsion.

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Nancy Pelosi and Anna Eshoo are in Qatar

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Anna Eshoo are part of a bipartisan congressional delegation that arrived today in Doha, Qatar.

“This evening our delegation met with His Excellency Dr. Khalid al-Attiya, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, to discuss U.S.-Qatar relations and security issues in the Middle East, Asia and Africa,” Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said in a news release. “We also thanked His Excellency for Qatar’s hospitality in hosting the U.S. military at Al Udeid Air Base and other facilities, which serve as logistics, command and basing hubs for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) areas of operations, including Afghanistan.”

“We are always honored to meet with our brave men and women in uniform on official trips abroad,” she said. “I am pleased this year to once again visit on Mother’s Day weekend and look forward to expressing our deep gratitude to the many mothers serving in our U.S. Armed Forces as continue this delegation visit.”

Besides Pelosi and Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, the other delegation members are Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio; Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.; and Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala.

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Lawmakers sign brief vs. Alabama immigration law

The South Bay’s House members are among 39 Democrats who signed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Alabama’s anti-illegal immigration law, HB 56.

Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; and Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, joined in the brief filed Monday, which argued six sections of Alabama’s law are unconstitutional.

“All of these sections are impliedly preempted by federal law and Congressional power and, if allowed to stand, will create an unworkable conflict between federal and state enforcement schemes and priorities,” the brief said. “Such a conflict will frustrate the orderly enforcement of federal immigration law and could jeopardize this Nation’s relationships with its closest allies.”

The brief also argues the law will harm the rights of all Alabamans, including citizens, under the First, Fourth, Sixth and 14th Amendments.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., spearheaded the effort to get lawmakers on board with the brief, including a Nov. 21 delegation trip to Birmingham, Ala., which Lofgren accompanied. Other signers of the brief included Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles.

“The Constitution is quite clear about the federal government’s preeminent role in immigration matters and having 50 inconsistent state policies towards immigrants is a level of chaos the Founders sought to avoid,” Gutierrez, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s Immigration Task Force, said in a news release. “HB 56 adds layers of punitive measures targeting Alabama residents that are inconsistent with federal policy. Congress has the responsibility to balance many concerns in legislating federal immigration policy, such as law enforcement, the economy, family unity, education, civil rights, and so on. HB 56 has and will cause irreparable harm to communities and families throughout Alabama, but will also cause irreparable damage to Constitutional principles if allowed to stand. We join the U.S. Department of Justice, civil rights organizations, immigrant advocates, educators and people of faith in calling for HB 56 to be stripped from Alabama’s law books.”

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Group knocks Lofgren, seeks ethics panel shakeup

The current lineup of the House Ethics Committee – chaired by a South Bay lawmaker – should be disbanded and the panel entirely repopulated in the next Congress, a progressive-leaning anti-corruption watchdog group said in a letter today to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Speaker-Designate John Boehner, R-Ohio.

“The American people demand that members of Congress act with honesty and integrity,” wrote Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “It is unfortunate that some of those charged with investigating unethical conduct may themselves have handled those responsibilities in a manner allowing charges of misconduct, unfairness and partisanship to be leveled. As the likely leaders of the 112th Congress, it is imperative that you step in and take firm action to get the situation under control and instill confidence in the ethics process.”

CREW cited in its letter an alleged breakdown of relations between Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, and committee staff; complaints and cross-complaints by Lofgren and Ranking Republican Jo Bonner of Alabama; Bonner’s ordering the Capitol Police to block the doors of the committee offices for a week; reports that committee members and staff argued about what documents should be subpoenaed; the suspensions of two staff investigators; intimations that Lofgren undermined staff efforts to prepare a fair and thorough case; and what it called the committee’s failure to obtain and review clearly relevant documents from Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and the House Financial Services Committee’s staff.

CREW also suggested the House leaders authorize an investigation into exactly what has happened during the inquiry into Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, including whether members or staff deliberately declined to obtain or produce either incriminating or exculpatory evidence.

“Confidence in the House ethics process already is historically low and the information slowly leaking out showing a dysfunctional committee in turmoil and disarray is sure to further diminish any remaining respect,” Sloan wrote.

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Students to make civil rights ‘pilgrimage’ with Lee

Two local high school students will accompany Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, to Alabama for the Faith & Politics 9th Annual Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage this weekend.

The annual pilgrimage to Birmingham, Selma and Montgomery, hosted by Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., aims to give lawmakers a sense of the Civil Rights Movement era, letting them explore the sacrifices made and consider how to advance civil-rights causes today. Several dozen members of Congress are expected to attend this year’s event.

Eric Fuller, a senior at the East Oakland School of the Arts at Castlemont High School, and Gerardo Cuevas, a sophomore at Emery Secondary School, will join Lee on the trip as other students have in past years. Lee said the event “assists in translating this country’s civil rights history,” and it’s “important that future generations gain a greater understanding of the Civil Rights Movement and how it helped to shape our country.”

The students are making the trip through the Oakland-based Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center, which prepares Bay Area youth to be leaders in nonviolence, social change, racial and economic justice and world peace. Lee is the center’s founding chair, and center staffer Karen Bohlke will make the pilgrimage trip as well.