Continued from page 1

In September, just before a campaign fundraising event, Chief of Staff Shirley Cooks, a holdover from Millender-McDonald’s tenure, sent an email to D.C. staff from her House account: “All staff are required to attend Ms. Richardson’s event. Bring spouses and tell interns they have to be there,” according to CREW’s letter to the FBI.

Ms. Richardson’s stewardship over her personal and campaign finances also appear troubled.

Lobbyists and special interests have hosted at least 22 fundraisers for her campaign, normally dinners at establishments such as Johnny’s Half Shell, according to the Sunlight Foundation. Unlike the May event, those swank dinners are financed by donors. When it comes to later spending those donations, few members of Congress bought food and drinks for themselves and staff at a more frequent rate, as opposed to campaign supplies such as bumper stickers, a review of records categorized by the Center for Responsive Politics showed.

Ms. Richardson struggled publicly with legal troubles after losing a home to foreclosure and later recovering it. Her most recent personal finance reports, which she amended Aug. 19 to disclose savings omitted the previous four years, show hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal debts.

The same two law firms to which she owes money for those personal matters also were paid more than $50,000 in campaign funds, The Washington Times found.

Expense it

Ms. Richardson is by far the largest spender on taxpayer-funded catered events, but she is not the only House member to use her office allowance for such purposes. Last quarter, after Ms. Richardson’s $20,000 affair comes $11,000 spent by Rep. Corrine Brown, Florida Democrat, and $6,300 spent by Rep. Donna F. Edwards, Maryland Democrat.

Of the highest 25 spenders over the past two years, all but six are Democrats and most are members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Several of those members attributed large food and beverage expenses to job fairs held for constituents.

“We held a job fair with 20,000 participants and a couple hundred volunteers. We had a luncheon for the volunteers,” said Nick Martinelli, a spokesman for Mrs. Brown, explaining $9,000 paid to Savor Jacksonville this year.

In the past two years, Ms. Richardson spent $42,000 on catered events, Mrs. Brown spent $29,000, and Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, a nonvoting delegate from the Northern Mariana Islands, spent $35,000. Mrs. Edwards spent $20,000.

House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, expensed $7,000 at Joe Ragan’s Coffee last quarter, while the office of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, spent $18,000 at Occasions Caterers. In the same period a year prior, when party control was reversed, Mrs. Pelosi’s office spent $49,000 on catering while Mr. Boehner spent $42,000.

The Republican conference and the majority whip’s office, which is in charge of persuading Republicans to vote with leaders, spent a combined $82,000 on food and beverages last quarter.

“In this era when so many Americans are concerned about government spending, it behooves members to be careful” about how they spend office funds, Mrs. Sloan said. “It’s going to have a bad optic even if its not against the rules.”