OCE Referral Regarding Rep. Jean Schmidt
On May 18, 2011, the Office of Congressional Ethics transmitted a referral to the Committee on Ethics of the United States House of Representatives regarding Representative Jean Schmidt.
Nature of Review
Representative Jean Schmidt may have received free legal services that are considered gifts under House rules. Since 2008, three lawyers for the Turkish American Legal Defense Fund ("TALDF") have represented her in various legal matters related to a complaint that she filed with the Ohio Election Commission against Mr. David Krikorian, a challenger to her congressional seat.
The Turkish Coalition of America ("TCA") has paid the TALDF lawyers a total of approximately $500,000 for the legal services provided to Representative Schmidt during the past three years. TCA currently pays the lawyers to represent her in an ongoing defamation suit that she filed against Mr. Krikorian in Ohio state court. Representative Schmidt has not paid for any of the legal services.
If Representative Schmidt accepted free legal services without establishing a legal expense fund, she may have violated House rules. She also may have violated House rules and federal law by not including the free legal service as gifts on her financial disclosure statements.
The Board of the Office of Congressional Ethics recommends that the Committee on Ethics further review the above allegations because there is substantial reason to believe that Representative Schmidt: (1) accepted legal services from TALDF without establishing a legal expense fund; and (2) failed to report the legal services on her financial disclosure statements for calendar years 2008 and 2009.
On August 5, 2011, the Committee released a report in which it determined that Representative Schmidt had received an impermissible gift from TCA. The Committee found that Representative Schmidt did not know she was receiving a gift from TCA, and that no sanction was appropriate. The Committee stated that Representative Schmidt must now disclose and repay the gift.