Where is Jay Kim?
The outgoing Republican congressman, who lost his reelection bid in June after pleading guilty to campaign finance violations, has closed his congressional offices in Southern California and Washington a month before his term ends, leaving constituents scrambling to get help.
Phone calls to Kim's offices in Yorba Linda, Ontario and Washington went unanswered this week, with no answering machine or forwarding number to assist callers.
With Kim's offices shuttered, incoming Republican Rep. Gary Miller and volunteers have been handling requests from the public out of Miller's small Diamond Bar campaign office, where he is based until the Jan. 4 swearing-in.
"We're trying to help people as much as we can," said Miller, who is moving up from the state Assembly. "People are calling us because they don't know what else to do. . . . There are [Kim] staff people being paid, and we don't know where they're at."
Miller said his office has fielded more than a dozen calls from puzzled constituents during the last week, ranging from parents seeking military academy appointments for their children to people needed help navigating the Internal Revenue Service.
Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) has also received calls from people looking for Kim, his staffers said Friday. Among the callers was the Department of the Navy, wanting to notify Kim of which students in his district had qualified for naval academy scholarships.
Kim, 60, who continues to receive his congressional salary through Jan. 3, has been on supervised probation since June. He vacated his Capitol Hill office last week with all other outgoing members of Congress. The lame-duck officials were moved to temporary quarters elsewhere on Capitol Hill.
But officials at the House clerk's office said Friday that Kim is the only departing member they know of who didn't forward calls.
The Pico Rivera office number for retiring Democrat Esteban Torres, for example, asks callers to leave a message, and his Washington office number continues to operate. A spokesman for the House Oversight Committee said outgoing members are not required to maintain a Capitol Hill office or even district offices.
Republican officials also said they expect to see Kim next week for a House floor vote on the impeachment of President Clinton for alleged perjury and obstruction of justice.
Attempts to reach Kim were unsuccessful.
Orange County prosecutor Pete Pierce, who also ran in the June primary, said Kim has an obligation to keep his district offices open until Miller is sworn in. The 41st District covers parts of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties. About 20% of district residents live in Orange County.
"It's all very sad that he's taken this attitude," Pierce said. "He should be available up until the moment he leaves office."
Several congressional staffers said Kim was seen around the Capitol as recently as Thursday, as he left the House gym.
Kim pleaded guilty last year in Los Angeles federal court to misdemeanor charges stemming from his acceptance of $230,000 in illegal campaign contributions from foreign companies and corporations. He also pleaded guilty to felony violations on behalf of his congressional campaign committee.
Before receiving probation, the congressman spent two months under home confinement with an electronic monitoring bracelet strapped to his ankle. Probation officials in Virginia, where Kim lives, could not be reached for comment Friday about the congressman's status.
In late October, the House Ethics Committee agreed that Kim violated congressional rules of conduct by taking the illegal contributions, but it decided against disciplinary action because Kim was leaving office in January. The committee also found that Kim had received an illegal $30,000 gift in 1994 from an official of Hanbo Steel and General Construction, a South Korean company.
In October, a federal judge denied Kim's request to end his probation five months early so he could move to South Korea and become a television talk-show host.
Miller said he made several attempts to reach Kim in the past two months as he prepared to transition the two offices, but he didn't receive a return call.
Miller's soon-to-be chief of staff, Bill Blankenship, said he met in recent weeks with Kim staffers in Orange County and Ontario but was told the federal offices would be operating through the last half of December. When the offices closed Dec. 3, Miller's transition team was "caught by surprise," Blankenship said.
"[Kim] made the decision to close shop without giving anyone any notice," he added. "It's really left people in the lurch." Kim denied violating House rules, though he admitted having broken federal campaign laws.
He told federal Judge Richard A. Paez in September that he wanted to leave the United States to become the host of a "Larry King Live"-type show in South Korea. He said he was saddled with heavy legal debts of more than $300,000 and the expense of a likely divorce settlement with his wife of 36 years.
Times staff writer Janet Hook contributed to this report.