Grand Jury Probes Rep. Gregory Meeks’ Sweetheart House Deal

Meeks headshotAccording to the New York Daily News today, a federal grand jury is investigating some of Queens’ most prominent politicians, including Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY). NLPC first exposed Meeks’ involvement with a charity called New Direction that raised money for Hurricane Katrina victims who never received it. NLPC also first exposed Meeks’ purchase of a home for far less than it is worth.

In a Complaint to the House Ethics Committee filed on March 19, NLPC asked for an investigation of Meeks’ purchase of the house. The Complaint detailed how a contractor named Robert Gaskin not only built the home for Meeks, but also did work for several other Queens politicians and nonprofits they control. At the same time, Gaskin received numerous contracts on taxpayer-funded projects.

Kenneth Lovett, Barbara Ross and Greg B. Smith of the Daily News report:

Sources said the feds are investigating whether the Queens

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NLPC Complaint Alleges Rep. Gregory Meeks Got Sweetheart Deal on Home

Meeks photoOn Friday, NLPC asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) for paying $830,000 for a newly-built home in 2006 that was worth more than $1.2 million. The home was built by Robert Gaskin, a contractor who does work on numerous projects for which Meeks has secured taxpayer funds. .

Classified a “mansion” by the City of New York, the Queens home has about 6,000 square feet, meaning that Meeks paid $138 per square feet. That price is less than half the cost per square foot for homes in Queens in both 2006 and 2007 according to the Trulia Real Estate Search service.

The $138 per square foot paid by Meeks is even less than the cost per square foot for public housing, $165 to $265. Purchasing a mansion for less per square foot than public housing is certainly a spectacular deal.

According to the Complaint:

Another

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Rep. Gregory Meeks’ Charity Looks More Like Slush Fund

Meeks photoRep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), already under scrutiny for his relationship with Ponzi billionaire Allen Stanford, is deeply involved with a nonprofit group in Queens, New York called New Direction Local Development Corporation. Our review of IRS tax returns, New York state budget records, and other documents suggests that New Direction does little development. Instead, it appears to operate to the benefit of Meeks and a state Senator named Malcolm Smith, and much of the money it has raised is simply unaccounted for.

New Direction has received at least $56,500 in New York state taxpayer funds since 2001, at the direction of Smith in the form of “member items,” the state equivalent of an earmark. The group’s largest donation of $250,000 came in 2004 from a company called International Airport Centers, which successfully sought permission to build an airport cargo facility near JFK airport in their districts. New Direction … Read More ➡

NLPC Alleges Charles Rangel Hid More Income in Complaint to House Ethics Committee

Rangel photoIn a Complaint filed yesterday, NLPC asks the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to expand its ongoing investigation of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY) to include apparent violations of House Rules related to his ownership of a Harlem investment property.

Again, it appears Rangel has failed to disclose income from a rental property.

On his financial disclosure forms, Rangel reported little or no rental income for eight years (1993-2001) on the six-unit Harlem brownstone, even though public records show tenants were living there. Click here to download a 35-page pdf of the Complaint.

NLPC’s exposure of Rangel’s unreported and undisclosed income from his Dominican Republic “villa,” touched off more intensive scrutiny of Rangel’s finances, leading Rangel to revise his filings last month for 2002 to 2006, showing his net worth to be roughly double what he had claimed in the past.

The revised … Read More ➡

Obama White House Has Secret Plan To Harvest Personal Data From Social Networking Websites

White House photoNLPC has uncovered a plan by the White House New Media operation to hire a technology vendor to conduct a massive, secret effort to harvest personal information on millions of Americans from social networking websites.

The information to be captured includes comments, tag lines, emails, audio, and video. The targeted sites include Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr and others – any space where the White House “maintains a presence.”

In the course of investigating procurement by the White House New Media office, NLPC discovered a 51-page solicitation of bids that was filed on Friday, August 21, 2009. Filed as Solicitation # WHO-S-09-0003, it is posted at FedBizzOps.com. Click here to download a 51-page pdf of the solicitation.

While the solicitation specifies a 12-month contract, it allows for seven one-year extensions. It specifies no dollar cap. Other troubling issues include :

extremely broad secrecy terms preventing the vendor from disclosing to

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Google’s Hypocrisy on Censorship

Today NLPC released a letter to members of Google logoCongress responding to a letter from a Google front group called the Open Internet Coalition (OIC). The June 29th OIC letter raised concerns about the use of new technologies like deep packet inspection which the group argued could be used by governments to “spy on Internet communications, censor speech and prevent grassroots democratic activism and free expression.” The letter called for Congressional hearings on the deployment of such technologies.

In our response, we pointed out the hypocrisy of a Google front group calling for regulation of new technologies that can hypothetically be used to subvert free expression, when Google itself has already implemented technologies that do the very same thing in countries like China. Click here to download a four-page pdf of the letter.

I pointed out that it’s some of the very “edge providers” that OIC holds up as “innovators” … Read More ➡