Schmidt Cleared In Ethics Probe


Georgetown News Democrat

Aug 10, 2011

WASHINGTON – The House Ethics Committee cleared Ohio Representative
Jean Schmidt of any wrongdoing regarding legal expenses associated
with an ongoing court case against former political opponent David
Krikorian. Krikorian alleged Schmidt had accepted legal services
from the Turkish Coalition of America in exchange for her denial of
the Armenian genocide. After an investigation by the House Ethics
Committee, it was found that while Schmidt had accepted the gift,
she had been unaware of conditions surrounding it.

According to the OCE referral, Schmidt received an impermissible
gift from the Turkish Coalition of America when lawyers provided
legal services to Schmidt in at least three related matters and
then sent bills for their fees to the Turkish Coalition of America,
which paid those bills on an ongoing basis. According to the Office
of Congressional Ethics, between 2008 and 2010 the TCA actually paid
Schmidt’s lawyers, who claimed to be acting as the Turkish American
Legal Defense Fund, a project of the Turkish Coalition of America
for approximately $500,000 in legal services.

According to the Office of Congressional Ethics neither the Committee
or Schmidt was aware of these payments when the Committee previously
provided advice to Schmidt regarding her options for paying legal
fees in the various proceedings.

The Committee’s review of the matter indicated that Schmidt did, in
fact, receive a impermissible gift from TCA as the Ethics Committee
has alleged, and therefore the committee did not dismiss the matter.

However, the committee has found that Schmidt’s lawyers failed to
inform her of their payment arrangement with TCA, and made false and
misleading statements to her about their relationship with TCA and
Turkish American Legal Defense Fund. Because Schmidt did not know
she was receiving a gift from TCA, the committee determined that no
sanction is appropriate in this case.

However, the gift was impermissible, and Schmidt must now disclose
and repay the gift. The Office of Congressional Ethics submitted
a report ordering Schmidt to ensure that TCA does not pay for any
further legal services on her behalf, to pay from a permissible source
the lawyers associated with Turkish American Legal Defense Fund for
all legal services they performed to date, amend her 2009 and 2010
Financial Disclosure Statements to disclose the gifts from TCA, and
disclose any unpaid legal fees from TCA as liabilities on her future
Financial Disclosure Statements, until the lawyers associated with
Turkish American Legal Defense Fund have been repaid in full.

Schmidt said she was pleased with the committee’s ruling and said
she has made every effort to pay her bills.

“I welcome the news,” Schmidt said. “The report vindicates what I have
been saying all along: I have worked cooperatively with the Committee
to ensure that I pay these bills in an ethical way. I hope this will
be the end of a sideshow created by my political opponents.”

The Ethics Committee also authorized Schmidt, who lives in Miami
Township and represents Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District, to create
and use a legal expense trust to pay bills involving a defamation
lawsuit she filed last year in Clermont County Common Pleas Court
against her former opponent.

The trust also can be used to pay legal bills that resulted from a
complaint Schmidt filed against the former opponent with the Ohio
Elections Commission, which reported in 2009 that there was clear
and convincing evidence that the opponent had made false statements
about her with malice.

According to Schmidt, if any damages are awarded to Schmidt as a
result of the defamation case, the money must first be used for lawyer
fees and expenses, and then to repay donors to the Jean Schmidt Legal
Expense Trust. Any leftover money must be donated to charity. Schmidt
said she will receive no direct or indirect financial benefit from
the suit.

“As I’ve stated publicly before, I neither sought nor intended to
accept free legal services,” Schmidt said. “I have been waiting for
the Ethics Committee’s advice as to the best way to pay these bills.

Now that I have that advice, I look forward to continuing to work
cooperatively with the Committee to ensure that these bills are paid

Krikorian also released a statement relating to the finding, stating
the committee just affirmed what his lawyers had known all along.

However, he said he did not agree that Schmidt was without fault.

“The Ethics Committee proved that we were right all along – Rep Schmidt
has received a half a million dollars in improper gifts from the TCA,”
Krikorian said in the release. “Personally I find it hard to believe
that Jean Schmidt did not know the facts regarding her own attorneys
in legal actions which she commenced in her own name – I find that
to be laughable.”

From: A. Papazian

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