The following letter was today sent to House Ethics Committee Chairman Charles Dent (R-PA), in photo, and Ranking Member Linda Sanchez (D-CA):
We are writing to express deep concern about the House Ethics Committee’s decision to withhold the findings of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) related to its investigation of Member and staff travel to Azerbaijan. The Committee’s action, along with its order to OCE to “cease and refer” without the Committee having officially started an investigation, sets a dangerous precedent that could fundamentally undermine the important benefits that OCE has brought to the House ethics process.
Melvin E. Lowe, a New York political consultant, was found guilty yesterday of conspiring with State Senator John Sampson of Brooklyn (in photo) to defraud the New York Senate Democratic Campaign Committee out of $100,000. Sampson is under indictment on unrelated charges of embezzlement, obstruction of justice and making false statements to the FBI. He allegedly embezzled $440,000 from escrow accounts on foreclosed properties.
Sampson and Lowe were caught up in an investigation prompted by NLPC's exposé of former State Senator Shirley Huntley, who was jailed for looting a nonprofit organization she founded, for which political allies had arranged to secure taxpayer funds. The scheme was detailed in a New York Post article of March 6, 2011.
New York City Democratic leader Albert Baldeo was convicted last week of seven counts of obstruction of justice. He was acquitted on three counts of fraud related to the use of straw donors to qualify for taxpayer matching funds for 2010 for his unsuccessful City Council campaign. The scheme was exposed by NLPC and was the subject of a New York Post story on October 11, 2011.
Baldeo is a close associate of Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY). The two shared an office from 2006 to 2009. The two have jointly sponsored workshops and programs on immigration and mortgage foreclosure. Meeks even arranged for a Congressional Proclamation in 2009 that called Baldeo a "visionary leader" and thanked him for his community service. See photo.
On Wednesday the New York Times published an account of how New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his staff derailed the workings of an anti-corruption commission that Cuomo had established with great fanfare just months earlier. A New York state law from 1907 named for its sponsor, Sherman Moreland, allows the governor to appoint investigators with subpoena power to seek out corruption in state government.
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is claiming that Cuban intelligence operatives may have planted reports that he patronized underage prostitutes. According to a Washington Post story on Monday by Carol Leonnig and Manuel Roig-Franzia:
The alleged Cuba connection was laid out in an intelligence report provided last year to U.S. government officials and sent by secure cable to the FBI's counterintelligence division, according to the former official and a second person with close ties to Menendez who had been briefed on the matter.
An lo and behold, look who is topping the list. It is Dr. Salomon Melgen, Senator Robert Menendez' biggest donor, whose eye practice in Palm Beach, Florida has been twice raided by the FBI. Apparently, Melgen was the top recipient of Medicare reimbursements for the whole county. In 2012, he received more than $20 million. The news has put renewed scrutiny on Melgen and his relationship with Menendez, which is reportedly under investigation by federal law enforcement authorities.
Last month, I wrote about pressure on state pension funds, many of which are underfunded and are facing immense pressure to chase higher returns. I profiled a $125 million investment made by the New Mexico Educational Retirement Board (NMERB) into Gramercy, a Connecticut-based hedge fund.
As we showed last month, there were some gaps between what Gramercy disclosed to NMERB and what we found in official records. Now Gramercy is making big news as a potential facilitator of a settlement between Argentina and holdout creditors. According to news reports, Gramercy and other bondholders who took Argentina's 2010 bond exchange are pushing a settlement.
The financial crisis brought havoc to just about every financial institution in the country. But let's focus on the current status of state pension funds, where the crisis is beginning to look particularly grim.
Just how underfunded are state pension funds? The estimates start at well over a trillion dollars and go up from there. The answer depends on the observed time period, the difficulty in raising taxes on an already overtaxed public, and the severe problems in getting decent returns without taking unacceptable risks.
New York State Senator John Sampson (D-Brooklyn) was arrested today, charged with embezzelment, obstruction of justice and making false statements to the FBI.
Also, the New York Daily Newsreports today that the FBI is investigating a $188,500 "loan" to Sampson from Edul Ahmad, the Guyanese-American businessman who pled guilty to charges in a multi-million dollar mortgage fraud scheme.