News Old - DO NOT USE - The Coast News Rancho Santa Fe

Busby questions ethics of cigar group

SOLANA BEACH —Francine Busby, Democratic candidate for the 50th Congressional District, announced Aug.12 that she sent a letter to the Office of Congressional Ethics urging an investigation into possible misconduct regarding members of the Congressional Cigar Association.
About a dozen people gathered for the press conference in front of the Solana Beach office of her opponent, U.S. Congressman Brian Bilbray, sponsor of the cigar group.
Busby claims lobbyists sit on the board of directors, which is a violation of ethics rules, and asked why the association has no website.
“Why is it under the radar?” she asked.
Busby also said the $40 annual membership fee and $10 “cover charge” per event seemed insufficient to fund “high-end drinks, food and cigars” at “expensive restaurants in D.C.”
“Who is footing the bill?” she asked.
“We’re demanding answers,” Busby said. “We don’t want excuses. We want answers, transparency and accountability.”
In a 2009 letter to the Committee on House Administration, Bilbray described the cigar group as a “bipartisan, bicameral staff association.”
“It is the goal of the staff Congressional Cigar Association to build congenial relationships among House and Senate staff of both parties, and to reclaim civility in political discussion,” the letter stated.
“Clearly Ms. Busby is playing politics a few months before an election,” Fritz Chaleff, Bilbray’s communications director, said in response to the Aug. 12 press conference.
“If she had done her homework and checked with the Committee on House Administration and the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, she would realize nothing wrong has been done,” Chaleff said.