More than three months after pledging to do so, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) has still not met with top members of the House ethics committee to discuss allegations that he used one of his staffers to spy on a Republican primary challenger.
Shuster said in early November that he wanted a face-to-face meeting with ethics Chairman Joel Hefley (R-Colo.) and ranking member Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.). Up until this week, that encounter has not occurred. Shuster is instead relying on his lawyer and staffers to communicate with the ethics committee.
Shuster has vehemently denied an accusation made by Joshua Juda, a former part-time employee in Shuster’s district office, that the Congressman and his chief of staff, Alex Mistri, told Juda on several occasions to conduct surveillance on Michael DelGrosso, who is challenging Shuster in the April 27 GOP primary.
Juda has claimed Shuster and Mistri wanted him to watch DelGrosso’s home to verify that his opponent actually lived there, as well as to attend a DelGrosso fundraiser and report on who showed up.
Juda made his allegation in early November, and since that time, Shuster said his office and the ethics committee “have exchanged documents” and other information on the case.
Shuster added that he didn’t know when the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, the formal name for the ethics committee, would wrap up its investigation, but said, “We’ll tell you as soon as we know something.”
Juda did not return a call seeking information on whether he had been contacted by or spoken to ethics committee staff.
Shuster has acknowledged that Juda was monitoring DelGrosso’s activities but denied that it was on official time or paid for with government funds, or that he was under order to do so by the Pennsylvania Republican. Shuster and his aides have instead cast Juda as an overeager employee who unknowingly violated the law on his own accord.
“At no time did I ever order, direct or ask Joshua to attend any fundraiser for Michael DelGrosso or to monitor Mr. DelGrosso,” Shuster told reporters Nov. 7. The use of government funds to pay for partisan political activities is strictly prohibited.
In a Nov. 4 letter that was circulated on the Internet, Juda said he quit Shuster’s office because he “became extremely troubled by the ongoing information-gathering campaign” on DelGrosso and was “deeply disturbed by Congressman Shuster’s response to that campaign.”
The 43-year-old Shuster was first elected in 2001 after the retirement of his legendary father, former Rep. Bud Shuster (R-Pa.), who held the 9th district seat for 28 years. The younger Shuster, the former owner of a car dealership, won his first full term easily in November 2002.
DelGrosso, the heir to a family spaghetti-sauce business and amusement park, worked as a consultant in Chicago and Washington before launching his bid for a House seat.