Watchdog group accuses Rep. Nadler and senior staffer of House ethics rule violations

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee who Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) once dubbed the “conscience of the House,” appears to be embroiled in an ethics scandal involving one of his senior staffers.

According to a watchdog group, it is alleged that Nadler’s district director, Robert Gottheim, has also been serving double-duty as an attorney for the congressman, which would be in violation of House ethics rules, the Washington Examiner reported.

The allegation comes as Nadler gets set to square off in an August 23 primary battle against fellow incumbent Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) to be the Democratic nominee for the newly redrawn 12th Congressional District that combined the old districts represented by the two veteran members of Congress.

FEC records appear to support the allegation of ethics violation

Fox News reported that a government watchdog group known as Americans for Public Trust recently raised the issue about Rep. Nadler’s senior staffer Gottheim, who has been with the congressman since 1998, appearing to be in violation of certain House ethics rules.

Federal Elections Commission records show that Gottheim was paid more than $81,000 between 2019 and 2021 for “legal and political consulting” services by the Nalder for Congress campaign.

Yet, due to Gottheim’s status as a “senior staffer,” those apparent payments for legal services would seem to be in violation of a House ethics rule that limits “outside earned income” and restricts “outside employment” above and beyond their normal duties as a senior staffer.

Specifically, “The restrictions prohibit senior staff from, among other things, (1) receiving compensation for practicing any profession that involves a fiduciary relationship, including, for example, law or accounting, and (2) serving for compensation as an officer or director of any entity.”

The rule adds, “Accordingly, a senior staff member, as defined above, may not receive any compensation for either providing legal services to a political organization, or for serving as an officer (such as treasurer) of such an organization.”

Campaign denies the allegation, watchdog group signals formal ethics complaint

For what it is worth, Nadler’s campaign told Fox News that Gottheim “doesn’t practice law in any capacity, including the campaign” and that he served only as a “strategic advisor” who “doesn’t have any fiduciary responsibility.” A spokesperson further insisted that the FEC label had been chosen for his work as a “strategic advisor” and not for any legal consulting.

However, Fox News noted that Nadler’s own campaign website describes Gottheim as a “Counsel for Nadler for Congress, handling all campaign finances & compliance issues w/ the FEC” since he first joined the congressman’s team.

That excuse won’t fly with Caitlin Sutherland, executive director of Americans for Public Trust, who told Fox News that “Jerry Nadler brags about being the ‘conscience of the House,’ yet he can’t even ensure that his top staffer is in compliance with simple House ethics rules.”

“It is absolutely against the law to be compensated for campaign work that involves fiduciary duties, and accordingly, we will look into filing a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics,” she added.

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