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Schmidt Rejects Accusations Regarding Legal Fees

Rep. Jean Schmidt’s (R) office has dismissed allegations leveled by a perennial challenger that the Ohio lawmaker improperly received legal services from Turkish interest groups to represent her in a host of legal disputes the duo have engaged in since 2008.

Democrat David Krikorian, who lost a May primary in his latest campaign for the 2nd district seat, asked the Office of Congressional Ethics in a July 13 letter to investigate whether the Turkish Coalition of America and Turkish American Legal Defense Fund paid Schmidt’s attorneys fees in an array of state and federal court disputes.

The OCE reviews potential rules violations and recommends investigations to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, also known as the ethics panel.

It is not known whether the OCE will review Krikorian’s allegations. The OCE does not comment publicly on its work.

Schmidt spokesman Bruce Pfaff rejected Krikorian’s accusations Monday, and denied the Congresswoman has run afoul of House rules.

“Mr. Krikorian has proven that he will say or do anything to attack the Congresswoman,” Pfaff said.

According to Pfaff, Schmidt received written advice from the ethics panel on her legal representation. However, Pfaff declined to provide a copy of the letter, stating it contained unrelated materials. Pfaff also declined to provide a redacted version of the letter.

“We’re in complete compliance with the House rules on this,” Pfaff said.

Schmidt recently requested permission from the House ethics panel to establish a legal expense fund, which would allow her to receive donations for her legal fees. Pfaff said the request, made last week, had not been approved as of Monday.

Pfaff said Schmidt has not yet raised funds for the expense account because it has not been approved.

The Ohio lawmaker and Krikorian have tangled repeatedly since the 2008 election cycle, challenging each other before the Ohio Election Commission, the Ohio courts and U.S. District Court.

In October 2009, the Ohio Election Commission ruled that Krikorian, an Armenian-American, made false statements when he circulated a flier in later 2008 accusing Schmidt of accepting funds from Turkish political interests.

Krikorian also filed a lawsuit in January in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, seeking to bar the Ohio Election Commission from sanctioning him for making similar statements in the 2010 cycle, arguing that it would impose on his free speech rights.

Schmidt filed a friend-of-the-court brief in May, seeking to have the lawsuit declared moot after Krikorian’s primary loss and have the case dismissed.

The Ohio lawmaker also filed a defamation suit in June against Krikorian in the Clermont County (Ohio) Common Pleas Court. As first reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer, Schmidt is seeking $6.8 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

Pfaff said Schmidt requested a legal expense fund for use in her proceedings before the Ohio Election Commission.

“We’re in the process of discussing with the House Committee on Standards whether we need to make an additional request … should we decide to move forward with the defamation suit,” Pfaff said.

Pfaff said in an earlier interview that Schmidt had yet to receive “a full bill” in the Ohio Election Commission matter.

“There’s nothing yet to pay,” Pfaff said.

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