Culture of Corruption

Ethics Committee (Finally) Staffs Up Amid Trial Delays

Waters photoLast week's announcement by the House Ethics Committee that it is investigating Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), a year after questions about his finances were in the headlines, has put the spotlight back on the Committee's ability to do its job.

The Committee recently hired 10 new and internal counsels, bumping their staff up to 23 members. But even with the beefed-up staff, the status of other, more high profile cases is still unknown.

House Ethics Committee Investigating Rep. Gregory Meeks

Meeks photoThe House Ethics Committee on Friday announced that it would "extend" a previously unacknowledged review of Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY).

In January 2010, we exposed Meeks involvement in a charity called New Direction Local Development Corporation that raised money for Hurricane Katrina victims who never received it, among other questionable dealings. In March 2010, we asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate Meeks for paying $830,000 for a newly built home in 2006 that was worth more than $1.2 million. Click here to download a 26-page pdf of the Complaint.

FBI Asked to Investigate Rep. Laura Richardson

Laura RichardsonA Congressional watchdog group has asked the FBI to open a criminal investigation of Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.). Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) exposed internal emails and press reports that show Richardson repeatedly coerced her congressional staffers to work on her campaign or risk getting fired. "Richardson was vicious to her staff," CREW's Executive Director Melanie Sloan said. "She went through a lot of members."

We Were Right About Maxine Waters' Trial Delay

Maxine Waters photoNancy Pelosi was quick to refer the Anthony Weiner scandal to the House Ethics Committee. Yet other more substantial matters, like the Maxine Waters trial, have languished for months.

In 2008, Waters, D-Calif., arranged a meeting with the U.S. Department of Treasury and OneUnited Bank. OneUnited claimed it was in dire need of federal cash as a result of its failed Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae investments. The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) provided $12 million to the bank.

Congressional Candidate Frankel Accused of Running 'Off-the-Books' Campaign

Lois FrankelNLPC has filed a formal Complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against Lois Frankel and her campaign committee. Democrat Frankel is running against incumbent Republican Rep. Allen West in Florida's 22nd Congressional District. Frankel is the former mayor of West Palm Beach, and announced her candidacy on March 21. She is opposed in the Democratic primary by businessman Patrick Murphy.

The Complaint alleges that Frankel reported more than $250,000 in income but failed to report virtually all of the expenses connected to fundraising or other campaign activity. The costs that apparently went unreported include direct mail, telephones, web hosting, a post office box, and the pay for a consultant named Brian Smoot. Click here to download a 6-page pdf of the Complaint.

Rangel Claims United States is 'Not Broke'

Pete Kasperowicz of The Hill reported yesterday:

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) on Wednesday said the federal government is not broke, and that Congress should not begin cutting programs in the way that Republicans have proposed.

"Make no mistake about it, we're not broke," Rangel said in a floor discussion with Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) "It wasn't that we overcompensated public employees. They didn't cause this deficit."

Rangel Embarrasses Himself in Court Appearance on Behalf of Gang Member

According to a report by Irene Cornell of WCBS radio in New York City:

Congressman Charlie Rangel basically embarrassed himself by showing up in court plead for the release of 17 year-old Afrika Owes, a one-time student at the Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts.

Rangel kept popping up, standing at the rail, trying to interrupt the judge. Finally, a court officer told him to sit down three times when he popped up again.

Judge Edward McLaughlin responded by saying, "I see someone standing who should not be standing, unless you have a bad back like I do." Rangel sat down.

Rangel Says Abolishing Collective Bargaining is Like 'Slavery'

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) yesterday claimed at a Congressional Black Caucus event:

Collective bargaining is something that is so close to slavery in terms of abolishing it, that it is not an American concept to tell people that they cannot discuss their economic position.

Rangel is apparently oblivious to other forms of servitude, like paying your taxes while he doesn't pay his, and then have to listen to him express indignation when he is caught.

Is the Justice Department Covering Up Congressional Corruption?

Mollohan photoEthics groups are wondering whether the U.S. Department of Justice has become skittish when it comes to investigating members of Congress, after numerous congressional corruption investigations were closed without trial last year, reported the New York Times.

Since the department's case against the late Rep. Ted Stevens (R-AK) notoriously fell apart two years ago, officials have halted at least five other corruption investigations against high-profile congressmen, including Rep. Don Young (R-AK) and Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-WV), in photo.

Rangel Attacks NLPC; Opens Legal Defense Fund

Rangel photoRep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) has formally opened a legal defense fund in an apparent acknowledgement of our accusation that he illegally used almost $400,000 in PAC funds for his legal defense. According to a statement Rangel made to Politics Daily:

The repeated filings of allegations, no matter how unsubstantiated, by the National Legal Policy Committee (sic), a politically-motivated right wing group dedicated to eviscerating civil rights and labor union protections, have led me to this action.

On November 29, we filed a Complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Rangel violated the Federal Election Campaign Act by using almost $400,000 in funds from his National Leadership PAC to pay legal bills related to the House Ethics Committee actions against him.

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