Public service, indeed
By Lee Russ
Wednesday, December 13, 2006 at 05:09 PM
Not that we need more examples of Republican corruption; they just keep falling out of the trees. Take California Republican Congressman (recently reelected) Gary Miller.According to the LA Times:
The move was one of many that Miller has made over the years in which he brought his congressional muscle to bear on personal business matters, according to the former staff members and the correspondence from Miller's congressional office -- handwritten notes, letters on Miller's congressional letterhead and e-mails.
All four former staff members requested anonymity to protect their current jobs in politics.
"There was never a clear line in the office between what was congressional business and what was just business," one former aide said. "The expectation was that you would do both."
A real estate developer and one of the wealthiest members of Congress, Miller, 58, routinely asked his staff to handle personal errands, such as helping his children with schoolwork, searching for rock concert tickets and sending flowers to family members and friends, according to documents reviewed by The Times.
Miller has also collected nearly $25,000 a year in rent from his campaign committee in each of the last three elections by using the offices of his real estate development firm in Diamond Bar as his campaign office.
Under federal election law such rents are considered self-enrichment unless a member can demonstrate that the private offices were used for legitimate campaign purposes.
Miller said through spokesman Scott Toussaint that the rent payments complied with federal law. He declined further comment.
In August 2005, Miller helped allocate federal funds for street improvements near a development he co-owned in Diamond Bar. In the same bill, he helped insert a provision to close an airport in Rialto used by emergency medical personnel and private pilots, opening up the land to development by one of his largest campaign contributors, Lewis Operating Corp.
In August of this year, The Times reported that Miller had worked with Lewis Operating Corp. to shelter an estimated $10 million in real estate profits from capital gains taxes. In response, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonpartisan watchdog group that earlier helped launch a federal probe of Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands), filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service asking for an investigation of Miller.
His home life often blends into his official work, according to e-mails and receipts. Once, staffers were told to overnight him a copy of "House Mouse, Senate Mouse," a children's book about the legislative process, because he had given his copy to his grandson.
They were asked, on occasion, to help his son register for college classes. They were asked to check his stock prices and put together a morning report for him. And they twice bought flowers for his wife for Valentine's Day. Miller had flowers sent to so many of his friends, relatives and constituents that his chief of staff sent out this message in August of 2001, saying, "We should be careful with the flower orders! Therefore, no one should mention any death of any resident in the district to Gary -- let Gary bring it to our attention."
Some of the most urgent e-mails reviewed by The Times focus on tickets to concerts and sporting events. Miller has, on several occasions, interrupted his staff's congressional work to send them hunting for concert tickets.
A die-hard Rolling Stones fan, Miller learned in May 2002 that the band was coming to Edison Field in Anaheim that October.
"Per his instructions, we are checking with city officials, Edison contacts, etc., to see what we can come up with," an e-mail written by an aide to Miller's chief of staff states.
A few days later, the staff was told by Miller's chief of staff to look for tickets to a Staples Center concert as well, according to e-mails. By May 29, a Miller staffer had prepared a memo outlining four options for getting tickets. The most promising was for the Edison Field show.
"I spoke to Greg Smith, who handles tickets," the aide wrote to Miller. "He said for you not to worry, they would try and take care of you."
Miller even did a little legwork himself. Using congressional letterhead, he sent a fax to the head of Ticketmaster's public affairs office. The message was short: "I am requesting four (4) very good seats for the Rolling Stones concert on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2002 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Please contact me as soon as possible."
Miller stands obviously ready to provide ful service to the public. All it will take is for him to change his name to "the public."