Culture of Corruption

Office of Congressional Ethics Asked to Release PMA Probe Details

Flake photoTwo congressmen are calling on the Office of Congressional Ethics to release details of an investigation into lawmakers linked to the PMA Group pay-to-play scheme, after the House Ethics Committee has refused to reveal information it collected during its own probe of the case.

On Feb. 26, the House Ethics Committee issued a report which cleared seven members of congress of exchanging earmarks for campaign donations with the now-defunct PMA Group. However, the committee has declined to disclose details of the investigation.

NLPC Files FEC Complaint Against Eric Massa

Massa photoThe National Legal and Policy Center filed a formal Complaint with the Federal Election Commission today against former Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY), and his campaign fund, that alleges violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). Click here to download a 7-page pdf of the Complaint.

On April 16, Jake Sherman of Politico reported that Massa’s campaign fund paid $31, 896 to GMAC just two days before Massa resigned from Congress. FECA prohibits the conversion of campaign funds to personal use.

On April 17, Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post reported that the Massa campaign made a $40,000 payment to Massa’s congressional office chief of staff, Joe Racalto.  The expenditure was listed as a “Campaign management fee.” Racalto had previously on March 23 filed a sexual harassment complaint against Massa.

Massa Looted Campaign Treasury on Way Out

Massa photpIt was revealed Friday that former Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) spent over $70K in campaign funds in the days immediately preceding and following his resignation amid sexual harassment allegations in early March.

According to Federal Election Commission filings, Massa cut a check for $40K to his chief of staff the day after he announced he was resigning. FEC filings also reveal that Massa made a $31,896.42 payment to GMAC for a “campaign car lease” just a few days earlier. Because the money was not being spent on a re-election effort, the former congressman may have violated campaign finance rules barring politicians from spending money on personal items that are unrelated to their campaigns.

Rep. Gregory Meeks Reports Subpoena to House

subpoena photoOn Tuesday, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) formally notified the House of Representatives that he had received a subpoena, as required by House rules. The subpoena was first reported by the New York Daily News on April 2 in the wake of our allegations that Meeks got a sweetheart deal on his house, and is involved with a charity that raised money for Hurricane Katrina victims who never saw it.

Did Meeks and/or Pelosi sit on the subpoena notification until after the March 21 health care vote? It depends on when Meeks got the subpoena. House Rule VIII states:

Rep. Jeff Flake to Push Ethics Committee on PMA Probe

Jeff Flake photoRep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) will likely bring another resolution before the House of Representatives next week calling on the House Ethics Committee to release more details of the investigation into lawmakers linked to the PMA Group pay-to-play controversy, his office told the NLPC Tuesday.

Rep. Flake has been the lone member of Congress pushing for more information on the investigation since late February, when the Ethics Committee released a brief, 5-page report on its probe of the politicians who obtained earmarks for clients of the now-defunct PMA Group lobbying firm. The D.C.-based PMA shuttered its offices last year after the FBI began investigating allegations that the lobbying group exchanged campaign contributions for earmarks.

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.

Despite Alaska Scandals, Don Young Wants More Earmarks

Don Young photoUndeterred by his recent ethics troubles, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) defied his House Republican colleagues' ban on earmark requests on Tuesday, posting his appeal for billions of dollars in funding for state and national projects on his website.

For the fiscal year 2011, Young's earmark requests include $1.1 billion for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, $30 million for the Fish and Wildlife Service programs, and $1 million for sea crab research.

Young's earmark requests fly in the face of a recent promise by House Republicans to abstain from all such applications for one year.

Rep. Gregory Meeks Attacks the Wrong Peter Flaherty

Meeks photoIn today’s Queens Chronicle, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) attacked NLPC as “a right-wing, inside-the-Beltway organization with an explicitly stated partisan agenda.” As evidence, Meeks claimed that I  “served as a top advisor to Mitt Romney during his presidential campaign.” The only problem is that Meeks got the wrong Peter Flaherty.

Maybe Meeks should learn how to aim before he fires. Or at least learn how to use Google. The Peter Flaherty who advised Romney is a principal in the Shawmut Group in Boston. He is a former assistant District Attorney in Suffolk County, and served as Vice-President of Walden Media, a film production studio. Flaherty worked as a senior advisor to Mitt Romney while he was governor, and held a senior position in his 2008 presidential campaign. He is also credited with helping to engineer Scott Brown's upset Senate win this year.

Ben Barnes Sued for $5 million by Stanford Receiver

Ben BarnesDemocratic lobbyist and former Texas Lieutenant Gov. Ben Barnes has been slapped with a $5 million lawsuit over lobbying and consulting services he provided to R. Allen Stanford, the indicted financier accused of running a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme.

The suit was filed on Mar. 15 by Ralph Janvey, the receiver appointed by the court to recoup the investors’ losses. It alleges that Barnes raked in millions doing consulting and lobbying work for Stanford’s fraudulent investment empire since 2005. Stanford is accused of bilking tens of thousands of investors out of nearly $8 billion, in one of the largest phony investment schemes of all time.

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. Click here to download a 26-page pdf of the Complaint.

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.

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