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Powerful Democrat Rep. Jerry Nadler accused of ethics violations by watchdog group
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Powerful Democrat Rep. Jerry Nadler accused of ethics violations by watchdog group

A watchdog group has accused House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) of breaching ethics rules by receiving legal services from a senior member of his staff.

Americans for Public Trust, an anti-corruption oversight group, says that Nadler received legal services from his district director Robert Gottheim in violation of House ethics rules. Gottheim, a New York resident, reportedly performed fiduciary services as an attorney to the Manhattan Democrat between 2019 and 2021 while simultaneously being paid at a senior staffer threshold, Fox News first reported.

Citing Federal Elections Commission data, Fox reported that between 2019 and 2021, Gottheim was paid $81,345.00 by Nadler’s campaign for legal and strategy services. That level of compensation would qualify Gottheim as senior staff.

The House of Reprsentatives' ethics rules define certain activities "for which senior staff (as well as House Members and officers) may not receive any compensation whatsoever." Those rules prohibit "receiving compensation for practicing any profession that involves a fiduciary relationship, including, for example, law or accounting" as well as receiving "any compensation for either providing legal services to a political organization, or for serving as an officer (such as a treasurer) of such an organization."

Gottheim has served as a member of Nadler's staff since 1998 and had been paid for services by the congressman's campaign between 2003 and 2018, but he was not compensated at a senior staff level until 2019, according to Fox News.

A spokesperson for Nadler's campaign denied that Gottheim rendered legal services to Nadler and told Fox News that Gottheim served as a "strategic advisor" to the campaign.

"He's a campaign advisor, which doesn't have any fiduciary responsibility," the spokesperson said. "When the campaign files the quarterly reports the treasurer must choose a category to list his expenditures, so they chose 'legal & strategic advising.' He's a strategic advisor, not a lawyer."

However, Fox News pointed out a short biography for Gottheim on the New York City West Side Democrats officers page states that since 1997 he has served as "Counsel for Nadler for Congress, handling all campaign finances & compliance issues w/ the FEC."

"Jerry Nadler brags about being the ‘conscience of the House,’ yet he and his top staffer can’t even comply with simple House ethics rules," said Caitlin Sutherland, the executive director of Americans for Public Trust.

"It is absolutely against the law to structure payments this way and 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.

Nadler, who has served in Congress since 1992, is one of the most powerful House Democratic chairmen. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has endorsed him for re-election over his primary opponent Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee.

The two incumbent Democrats have been forced to face each other in the primary for the 12th district representing Manhattan after New York's congressional districts were redrawn because of the state's declining population. The primary election is on August 23.

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