Kirsters Baish| It has been reported by the Daily Caller that two Congressional Progressive Caucus leaders may face both civil and criminal penalties after “omitting their membership on a dark money group’s board in their House financial disclosure statements, legal experts told The Daily Caller News Foundation.”
The Daily Caller reports:
The two co-chairs of the progressive caucus, Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, served on the board of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center (CPCC) in 2017, according to the nonprofit’s 990 tax form from that year, the most recently available. But neither lawmaker disclosed their board position on their 2017 financial disclosure statements, as required by the House Committee on Ethics.
“These positions clearly were reportable. It seems pretty cut-and-dry to me,” Jessica Furst Johnson, a former general counsel for the National Republican Congressional Committee, explained to the Daily Caller.
Cleta Mitchell, a conservative political law attorney, also spoke to the Daily Caller, explaining any lawmaker who files “inaccurate financial disclosures” could face the penalty of civil fines and “potential criminal penalties for perjury for filing false reports.”
Furst Johnson and Mitchell both stated, however, that it isn’t likely that the Office of Congressional Ethics (which is known to be non-partisan) will punish either Jayapal or Pocan.
“Under the Ethics in Government Act, if it’s a knowing and willful failure to disclose, then they’re subject to penalties both civil and criminal. There is a little bit of leeway that’s typically granted with respect to financial disclosures. The committee seems to give the benefit of the doubt that an omission was unintentional,” Furst Johnson explained. “But if it’s a knowing and willful violation, that’s certainly not the case.”
The Daily Caller explains:
Errors on financial disclosures statements aren’t uncommon — some 30 percent of House members had filed amendments to correct their initial disclosures, Roll Call reported in 2011.
The most common mistakes lawmakers make on their financial disclosures involve misreporting assets, capital gains, mortgages and pension plans, according to the House Ethics Committee.
However, omitting positions on the board of an outside nonprofit organization, like what Pocan and Jayapal did, is not cited by the ethics committee as a common mistake.
Pocan and Jayapal, who was the first vice chair of the progressive caucus at the time, were two of the five elected members of Congress named as CPCC board members in the nonprofit’s 2017 990. A third, Minnesota attorney general and former Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, also omitted his membership on the CPCC board from his 2017 House financial disclosure.
Representatives of the House Committee on Ethics are required to disclose any positions they hold on the boards of any nonprofit, “regardless of whether or not compensation was received.”
The Daily Caller explains that exceptions do exist, however it doesn’t seem that Jayapal or Pocan’s CPCC positions meet the criteria.
“The bylaws of the CPCC grant voting rights to elected members of Congress that serve on its board. Members are also given additional ‘special responsibilities,’ such as participating ‘actively in the governance’ of the CPCC and supporting its fundraising goals,” the Daily Caller reports.
During a town hall event in February, Pocan stated that the CPCC was planning on funding staffers for the progressive caucus, which the Daily Caller says experts previously explained is a violation of congressional rules.