Culture of Corruption

Azerbaijan Trip by House Members Broke Rules

Gregory MeeksThe Houston Chronicle yesterday published an account of a 2013 trip by 10 members of the House of Representatives to Azerbaijan that violates a House rule that prohibits the acceptance of overnight travel from corporations that employ lobbyists. The trip was indirectly paid for by companies doing business in Azerbaijan through nonprofit groups.

The fact set is similar to the 2008 case involving a trip to the Caribbean by then-Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY), exposed by NLPC, and investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). OCE referred the matter to the House Ethics Committee, which "admonished" Rangel, prompting his resignation as House Ways and Means Chairman. The head of the nonprofit that sponsored the event was eventually convicted of lying to Congress.

Menendez Tries to Blame Castro For Ethics Woes

Fidel CastroSenator 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.

Rangel Campaign Manager Set Up Fake Charity

Rasheida SmithThe axiom that "all that rises must converge" is upside down in New York State where all that falls is now converging. According to the New York Post, Rep. Charles Rangel's campaign manager helped incorporate a nonprofit group that was plundered by New York City Councilman Ruben Wills, who was arrested last week. From the article:

Rasheida Smith, a longtime southeast Queens Democratic operative, is listed on the incorporation papers of New York 4 Life, the group that state authorities say Wills looted for more than $30,000 to buy such luxuries as a $750 Louis Vuitton handbag.

NYC Councilman Ruben Wills Busted

Ruben WillsNew York City Councilman Ruben Wills of Queens was arrested today on corruption charges, the latest New York politician to be caught up in investigations apparently triggered by NLPC. According to the New York Daily News:

Wills had been under investigation by State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli over tens of thousands of dollars in missing state funds given to a not-for-profit group he once headed, New York 4 Life.

Former Countrywide Trader Behind Fannie/Freddie 'Reform' Bill

Countrywide signAlana Goodman of the Washington Free Beacon today reports that Michael Bright, a senior advisor to Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) who was instrumental in crafting a bill to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, has a controversial background.

He worked as at Countrywide Financial from 2002 to 2006, and as a senior trader for Wachovia from 2006 to 2008. Countrywide was the center of a major financial and political scandal, and was a major contributor to the sub-prime loan crisis.

From the article:

Renewed Spotlight on Salomon Melgen, Sen. Menendez' Biggest Donor

Melgen MenendezIt took a lawsuit by the Wall Street Journal to pry loose information from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services about which doctors get Medicare reimbursements.

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.

Rangel Stiffed NY State on Office Rent

RangelWhat is it about Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) and real estate? From yesterday's New York Post:

State taxpayers were stiffed out of at least $87,000 when Rep. Charles Rangel stopped paying for the district office he rents in Harlem's Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building, records ­obtained by The Post show.

His staffers' excuse? They lost the lease, according to state Office of General Services correspondence.

NY Times Profiles Menendez Donors

MenendezIn today's New York Times, Frances Robles provides new details of the extensive political giving of two wealthy Ecuadoran brothers, Roberto and William Isaias, who are wanted in their home country for allegedly looting a bank. From the Times:

"There is a certain mercenary aura on the Hill when it comes to overlap of fund-raising from wealthy individuals with problems," said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a research group. "The key elements are all there: They are wealthy and have problems that are solved by the discretionary judgment of someone in the administration. They have tons of money and are willing to write checks all over the place."

Menendez Discloses Another Flight on Melgen's Jet; Will Investigations Go Anywhere?

Melgen Menendez photoSenator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) disclosed on Friday that he accepted a third flight on a jet owned by Dr. Salomon Melgen, his largest donor, who is apparently under investigation for Medicare fraud. Last year, when Menendez was forced to admit to that he accepted two flights from Melgen, his office asserted that there were no more flights. Menendez' failure to reimburse Melgen was characterized as an "oversight," the same term his office used in reference to the first two flights.

Probe of Senator Robert Menendez Expanding?

Menendez photoNew York TV station NBC 4 reported today that the federal criminal probe of New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez is expanding:

The Department of Justice is investigating Menendez's efforts on behalf of two fugitive bankers from Ecuador, multiple current and former U.S, officials tell NBC 4 New York. The probe into Menendez's dealing with the bankers comes as federal authorities are also investigating his relationship to a big campaign donor from Florida.

The donor is Salomon Melgen, Menendez' largest contributor. In 2012, Melgen contributed $700,000 to a super PAC affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that spent the bulk of the funds for Menendez' re-election. The report notes:

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