A top staff member in the office of Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) also maintains a state-level lobbying practice in Missouri, an arrangement that legal experts say raises ethical concerns but that the Congressman’s office defends as completely legal and in compliance with all House rules.
Phil Scaglia serves as interoffice coordinator for Cleaver’s offices in Kansas City and Washington, D.C., operating with many of the traditional functions of a chief of staff. He is responsible for hiring and firing staff and making management decisions for both offices. Scaglia also has run Cleaver’s campaigns, according to Danny Rotert, the Congressman’s spokesman.
Scaglia has a separate lobbying practice in Kansas City, representing local clients and the regional chapter of the American Diabetes Association. He also was a spokesman for a coalition of primarily business interests in the state that supported a ballot initiative to raise taxes to pay for upgrades to the professional baseball and football stadiums in Kansas City in 2006.
Rotert said Scaglia’s arrangement does not violate any House rules, which state senior staff members may earn a maximum of $25,000 from outside enterprises and may not be paid for providing professional services such as “consulting or advising.” But those limits only apply to staff earning more than $111,000. Last year, Cleaver paid Scaglia just under $98,000, according to the Legistorm salary database.
“Mr. Scaglia makes sure to separate the two jobs and is clear that when he is working on behalf of a client he in no way speaks or acts on behalf of the Congressman,” Rotert said in an e-mail response to Roll Call. “Because of his employment salary status, House rules allow him to have other employment and he does not contract with, or lobby on behalf of, a client on federal matters. In the instance of the American Diabetes Association, Mr. Scaglia’s efforts are specifically directed to representing the Association at the Missouri State Legislature.”
Stefan Passantino, who heads the political law practice at McKenna Long & Aldridge, said that even if Scaglia’s arrangement does not violate House rules, “you have the potential for the appearance of impropriety,” because “there is an implied ability to be helpful or harmful to the local interest.”
Passantino points out that “you can’t control the e-mails or things people say about you,” and trying to maintain a line between the Congressional job and the lobbying business will be difficult because other people “think you can do things for them, even if you said nothing.”
Scaglia apparently has been in situations where he was appearing on behalf of a client when Cleaver’s name came up in discussion. According to the minutes of a November 2005 meeting of the city council of Sugar Creek, Mo., Mayor Stan Salva opened the meeting with a discussion of Cleaver’s willingness to help the town obtain funding for an expressway.
Later in the meeting, according to the minutes, “Phil Scaglia of American Traffic Solutions” responded to questions about the town’s plan to install red-light enforcement cameras. American Traffic Solutions makes the cameras, and is listed as one of Scaglia’s clients.
There is no indication Scaglia ever suggested that a favorable ruling on the purchase of traffic cameras would affect the Congressman’s efforts on behalf of the expressway, but Passantino argues that this is where the danger of the dual hats lies: If someone were to make that allegation, “it is impossible to defend, because how do you prove that that didn’t happen?”
Scaglia, who has worked in Cleaver’s Congressional office since August 2005, served as chief of staff to then-Rep. Karen McCarthy, representing the same Congressional district, from 1996 to 2003.