Peter Flaherty's blog

Rep. Kathleen Rice Took Gifts From Rich Donors

What is the point of prohibiting members of Congress from accepting personal gifts worth more than $50 if the the House Ethics Committee simply waives the rule?

Freshman Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) has disclosed that she accepted substantial gifts from two donors to her political campaigns. Her office claims that the Ethics Committee waived the rule. The first was from a billionaire hedge fund operator named Lee Ainslie in the form of a private jet flight from New York to Boston. It was purported to be worth $3,300. A commercial flight would have cost about $300. According to the New York Post, which first reported the story, Ainslie and his wife have donated more than $80,000 to Rice’s various political campaigns.

House Thwarts New Assault on Office of Congressional Ethics

The House today voted down an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Steven Pearce (R-NM), that would have cut the budget of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). The tally was 137-270. During debate, Pearce said, "I would urge people to support this amendment to give notice to the OCE that we're watching what they are doing."

This kind of threatening language is inappropriate, and seems calculated to undercut the independence and effectiveness of OCE. Maybe Pearce hasn't noticed, but the American people have had it with business as usual in Washington. People are sick of all the corruption. We need stronger ethics enforcement, not less.

Freedom House Asked to Decline Facebook Support for Net Freedom Index in Wake of Censorship Flap

NLPC Chairman Ken Boehm sent this letter today to Freedom House President Mark Lagon:

I am sure that you are familiar with the furor over the alleged censorship of conservative stories by Facebook in its “trending" news section. As you know, Facebook is a funder of your annual Net Freedom Index.

On November 19, 2015, I wrote you regarding the appearance that the Net Freedom Index reflected the lobbying priorities of large Silicon Valley firms, rather than serving as an objective index of freedom on the Internet.

Will the FTC’s Ramirez Tell the Truth at Senate Hearing?

Federal Trade Commission Chair Edith Ramirez is scheduled to testify tomorrow, May 11, before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. The topic is “Examining the Proposed FCC Privacy Rules.”

The hearing comes amid allegations that Ramirez is not independent and takes her direction from Google.

On March 9, Ramirez contradicted herself in testimony she gave to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the FTC’s dropping of an antitrust action against Google in 2013. She testified that the FTC decision not to sue Google was “consistent with the recommendation that had been made by our Bureau of Competition staff,” adding that any “press reports to the contrary are just flatly wrong.”

Clinton Foundation Donor That Got Big OPIC Loans Now Faces Corruption Allegations

Another Clinton Foundation donor with ethics problems received a loan from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. This time, the dollar amounts are gargantuan, and the recipient is at the center of a corruption scandal in Pakistan.

According to a report in the Washington Free Beacon by Alana Goodman,  a Middle Eastern investment firm called The Abraaj Group has contributed $500,000 to $1 million to the Clinton Foundation. Abraaj owns and manages a utility company named K-Electric in Pakistan. That country’s former oil minister,  Asim Hussain,  has been arrested for providing illegal favors for K-Electric and harboring Islamic terrorists in hospitals he owns. From the article:

Justice Dept. Pursued Nemesis of Clinton Foundation Donor

Ken Silverstein in the New York Observer adds important new information to the case of Clinton Foundation donor Gonzalo Tirado, which was first exposed by NLPC. Tirado headed Ponzi-schemer R. Allen Stanford’s bank in Venezuela, but now lives openly in Miami.

After the Stanford flame out, the Venezuelan Tirado sought political asylum in the United States. Although never charged with a crime stateside, Tirado was an extremely dubious candidate for asylum. It is unclear whether he was actually granted it, but Tirado now resides safely in Miami, even as Stanford victims still struggle to recover a portion of their investments.

Watchdog Asks for Probe in Mortgage Lending 'Revolving Door' Case

A watchdog group is asking for an investigation of David H. Stevens, a former Federal Housing Administration (FHA) official, who currently serves as President and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA).

The National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) today asks in dual requests to the U.S. Attorney for District of Columbia, and the Inspector General of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, that Stevens be investigated for possibly violating the statutory one-year ban on having contact with his former agency, as well as the lifetime ban on having contact with officials on matters on which he worked while in government. Click here to download a copy of the requests.

Puerto Rico Governor Tries to Distance Himself from His Brother

Alejandro Garcia Padilla, the governor of Puerto Rico, is claiming that he has nothing to do with a controversial charity, which has his brother Antonio Garcia Padilla as its only employee, according to Alana Goodman in the Washington Free Beacon.

The nonprofit is called Sociedad Economica De Amigos Del Pais. Its funding comes from corporations doing business with the Commonwealth government. According to its federal tax return, Antonio makes $70,000 per year for a forty-hour work week. The group is a resurrected version of a nonprofit founded as the Hispanic Education and Legal Fund (HELF) in 1996 by New York union boss Dennis Rivera and former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson.

Questionable Charity in Puerto Rico Has One Employee— the Governor’s Brother

A nonprofit group founded by ex-New York SEIU boss Dennis Rivera has received big contributions from corporations that do business with the Puerto Rican government, while employing the governor’s brother as its only employee. This arrangement was reported today by Alana Goodman of the Washington Free Beacon, based on information provided by NLPC.

FBI Investigating Clinton Foundation Pay to Play?

According to unconfirmed reports, the FBI is now investigating the possibility that donors were directed to the Clinton Foundation in return for favors from the State Department when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. This would be in addition to the ongoing investigation into Hillary’s use of a private email account for official business.

We hope the FBI is reviewing the circumstances described below that we uncovered and have already made public:

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