CNN Looks at Threats to Office of Congressional Ethics

I was interviewed in a report that aired last night by Scott Bronstein, Joe Johns, and Rahel Solomon of CNN’s Special Investigations Unit. The text of this very well done story appears below. One point not made in the report is that without the Office of Congressional Ethics, our exposé of Rep. Charles Rangel’s acceptance of corporate-funded Caribbean junkets may have been ignored.

In November 2008, NLPC President Peter Flaherty tagged along on a Rangel trip to sunny St. Maarten. He snapped photos and made audio recordings evidencing that big corporations like Citigroup, in violation of House Rules, underwrote the festivities. Based on media coverage we generated, OCE took up the case. It produced a detailed report based on Flaherty’s materials, and referred it to the Ethics Committee for action.  The Ethics Committee “admonished” Rangel who was soon after forced to resign his Ways and Means Chairmanship.

More recent events … Read More ➡

Ethics Committee Can’t Find Anything Wrong With Secret Loan From Fraudster to Rep. Gregory Meeks

Meeks photoAhmad photoToday the House Ethics Committee announced that it was taking no action against Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) who secretly took a $40,000 payment from an individual who subsequently pled guilty in a multi-million-dollar mortgage scam.

In 2007, Meeks received $40,000 from a “businessman,” Edul Ahmad.  Under the Ethics in Government Act, Congressmen are required to disclose such financial transactions on their annual Financial Disclosure Reports.  Meeks failed to disclose the transaction on his reports for 2007, 2008 and 2009.

In 2010, the New York Daily News reported, “Queens Congressman Gregory Meeks made no payments for three years on a secret $40,000 personal loan – and repaid the cash only when the FBI started asking questions, the Daily News has learned.”  

The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) investigated the matter and found that the claim by Meeks that the $40,000 was a loan was questionable since there was no indication … Read More ➡

Watchdogs Defend Office of Congressional Ethics

OCE door photoOn Wednesday, I took part in a press conference with leaders of other ethics groups to show support for the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), which should not be confused with the House Ethics Committee.

OCE was established in 2008 and is slightly more independent that the Ethics Committee because its board is comprised of former members of Congress and private citizens, rather than sitting members. OCE cannot sanction members but can only make referrals to the Ethics Committee.

Its role and importance were demonstrated in the Charles Rangel case.  NLPC President Peter Flaherty tagged along on a Caribbean junket in November 2008 to sunny St. Maarten. He snapped photos and made audio recordings evidencing that the event was underwritten by big corporations like Citigroup, in violation of House Rules.  OCE took up the case, produced a detailed report based on Flaherty’s materials, and referred it to the Ethics Committee … Read More ➡

The Ethics of Forest Certification: When Unintended Consequences Result

forest photo“One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions and not by their results.”  — Dr. Milton Friedman

The free market has long been recognized as one of the best methods for consumers to get a wide variety of choices, while at the same time the competition for the consumer dollar incentivizes producers and sellers to offer the best possible value for the price.

Free market advocates have demonstrated that, all too often, interventions in the market such as tariffs, regulations, taxes, and so forth – imposed with the best of intentions – not only rob the consumer of choice but increase the ultimate cost of goods and services.

As Milton Friedman liked to point out, such interventions frequently resulted in outcomes exactly the opposite of what was intended by those advocating the interventions. In short, the law of unintended consequences operates to frustrate those … Read More ➡

EXCLUSIVE: Sen. McCaskill’s Husband’s Businesses Benefitted From $20 Million in Stimulus Funds

McCaskill/Shepard photoAn analysis of public records by the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) has found more than $20 million in federal stimulus funds benefitting real estate projects financially tied to Joseph Shepard, husband of Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill.

Earlier this month, the Associated Press published an analysis, stating, “businesses affiliated with the husband of Senator Claire McCaskill have received almost $40 million in federal subsidies for low-income housing developments during her first five years in office…”

The NLPC analysis released today showed more than $20 million in financial benefits from the federal stimulus law to real estate projects associated with McCaskill’s husband, with all of the $20 million benefitting projects different than those identified by the Associated Press story.

Missouri Tax Credit Fund: More Than $1 Million in Annual Income For the McCaskill Household in 2009, 2010 and 2012

While the AP study focused on federal subsidies going to entities … Read More ➡

Albert Baldeo, Another Meeks Crony, is Arrested

Meeks Baldeo photoAlbert Baldeo, a Democratic Party leader in New York City, was arrested by the FBI this morning on corruption charges. According to the New York Times:

Mr. Baldeo is accused of using phantom donors to funnel illegal campaign contributions to his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for City Council in order to fraudulently increase the amount of matching funds provided by the city, federal prosecutors said.

The phantom donors were first publicly described in a New York Post story of October 11, 2011. The information was provided to the Post by the National Legal and Policy Center as part of our investigation into U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and his political network.

Baldeo is the third Meeks associate to be face legal action in recent days.

On October 10, Guyanese-American businessman Edul Ahmad pleaded guilty to bank and wire fraud as part of a plea bargain related to a multimillion-dollar mortgage … Read More ➡

Meeks Crony Edul Ahmad Pleads Guilty to Fraud

Ahmad photoGuyanese-American businessman Edul Ahmad pleaded guilty on Wednesday to one count of bank and wire fraud as part of a deal with federal prosecutors in New York’s Eastern District. Ahmad was indicted on ten counts related to a massive mortgage fraud scheme in August 2011. He will be sentenced in the near future. Sentencing guidelines call for 10 to 13 years in prison.

Ahmad made a $40,000 payment to Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) in 2007 that the Congressman failed to disclose on his Financial Disclosure Reports for 2007, 2008, and 2009. Meeks subsequently claimed the $40,000 payment was a loan, but there were no note or payments until several years after the payment was made. Meeks’ omission is currently under investigation by the House Ethics Commitee.

On Wednesday, Meeks made little effort to distance himself from the fraudster, releasing a statement that read, in part: “My thoughts and prayers are … Read More ➡

Edul Ahmad Cops Plea?; Crony of Rep. Gregory Meeks

Edul Ahmad photoMeeks photoFederal Prosecutors and lawyers for Guyanese businessman Edul Ahmad (photo, right), who has been indicted in a $50 million dollar mortgage fraud scheme, have apparently reached a plea arrangement that will be made public next month.

Ahmad made a $40,000 payment to Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) in 2007 that the Congressman failed to disclose on his Financial Disclosure Reports for 2007, 2008, and 2009. Meeks subsequently claimed the $40,000 payment was a loan, but there were no note or payments until several years after the payment was made. Last year the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate the matter.  The OCE reported that Rep. Meeks “refused to cooperate with the OCE’s investigation.”

In 2011, Ahmad was reportedly removed from a Guyanese-bound airplane on the tarmac at JFK airport by the FBI and was indicted in connection with a massive $50 million mortgage fraud scheme.… Read More ➡

NLPC Asks Feds to Investigate Meeks’ House Sale

Meeks photoNLPC has asked federal prosecutors to investigate the sale of a home by Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), alleging that it was sold at an inflated price and that the purported buyers could not have qualified for a mortgage. The 2006 transaction was handled by an attorney named Alexander Kaplan, who was subsequently convicted of 18 counts of mortgage fraud and is currently serving a 46-month prison sentence.

The sale of the home at 660 Grassmere Terrace in Far Rockaway, New York appears to have allowed Meeks to purchase his present Queens home in late 2006 that New York City classifies as a “mansion.”  In March 2010, NLPC alleged in a Complaint to the House Ethics Committee that Meeks paid $830,000 for the newly built home that was actually worth $1.2 million.

In the request to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, NLPC pointed out that Kaplan’s … Read More ➡

Rep. Gregory Meeks Assailed by NY Post as Meeks Attacks NLPC

Meeks photoThe New York Post today published an editorial titled “Greg Meeks – Again” regarding the allegations in our Complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on October 28.

Meeks apparently had not yet received a copy of the Complaint at the time he wrote a column published last week in the Queens (New York) Tribune. In the column, Meeks characterized us as “right wing” and (again) blamed us for his ethics problems. I can’t wait to see his reaction to our new Complaint.

In the Tribune, Meeks omitted mention of his friend Edul Ahmad, from whom he secured an unsecured and unreported $40,000 personal loan, now the subject of an investigation by the House Ethics Committee. In July, Ahmad was taken off a Guyana-bound airliner in handcuffs by the FBI and charged in a $50-million mortgage fraud scheme.

Here the Post’s editorial today on our new allegations … Read More ➡