Culture of Corruption

Controversy Follows Former Wal-Mart Lobbyist

Hirni business cardJim Hirni, convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in the Jack Abramoff scandal, is again in the news. South Carolina’s largest newspaper, The State, reported on Thursday that Hirni has been assisting the South Carolina Republican Party with fund raising and organizing events.

Following the publication of our Special Report critical of Wal-Mart, Hirni in 2007 communicated to members of the Washington, DC public policy community that their employment could be negatively affected if they associated with NLPC.

Ethics Committee Delays Rangel, Waters Trials as New Poll Says Pelosi Failed to Drain the Swamp

Rangel and PelosiIt’s official. The House Ethics Committee will not conduct trials of Reps. Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Maxine Waters (D-NY) until safely after the November 2 election. Ethics Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) announced yesterday that Rangel’s trial is scheduled to begin on November 15 and Waters’ on November 19.

Politics have trumped ethics in the final days of this Congress. Notwithstanding her pledge to “drain the swamp” and preside over the most ethical Congress ever, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) simply will not allow high-profile ethics trials during the campaign season. This delay is sure to backfire. A new poll shows that most voters believe Congressional ethics have gotten worse in the last two years.  According to the Hill, which conducted the poll:

Did Rep. Pingree Get Engaged to Beat Ethics Rap?

Chellie Pingree photoThe Maine Republican Party has filed a complaint against Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), for reportedly violating federal election laws by flying to a New York campaign fundraiser in a private jet owned by a corporation controlled by her fiancé.

Video captured by the Maine Watchdog shows Rep. Pingree and her fiancé, billionaire liberal philanthropist S. Donald Sussman, traveling on a $25 million jet which belonged to a Magic Carpet Enterprises, LLC., a corporation owned by Sussman. Records obtained by the watchdog group show that Rep. Pingree flew to an airport in White Plains, NY, where she then drove to a fundraising event in New York City.

Republicans on Ethics Committee Accuse Lofgren of ‘Stalling’ on Rangel, Waters Trials

Jo Bonner photoIn recent days, we have complained about the apparent delay of the House ethics trials of Reps. Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Maxine Waters (D-CA) until after the election. We also wondered aloud about why the Republicans on the Ethics Committee were letting it happen.

Today, Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL), the Committee's ranking Republican, said Democrats were “stalling” and accused Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) of having “repeatedly refused to set either the Rangel or Waters trial before the November election."

Ethics Chair Lofgren Can’t Find Time for Rangel Trial But Brings Colbert Comedy Show to Capitol Hill

Lofgren photoRep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) is Chair of the House Ethics Committee, which is supposed to be conducting a trial of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) on the 13 violations of House rules the Committee alleged on July 29.  There is also supposed to be a trial of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA).

Instead, Lofgren played host on Friday to comedian Stephen Colbert who testified “in character” on the plight of migrant farm workers before a Judiciary Committee subcommittee that Lofgren also chairs. I thought Colbert was actually pretty funny but other reviews were mixed.

Rep. Meeks' Links to Jihadists Get Scrutiny

Meeks photoRep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) lobbied against the federal investigation of a Muslim professor whose charity is suspected of funding Osama bin Laden, according to 2006 documents.

The congressman appealed to several federal agencies on behalf of Islamic scholar Anwar Hajjaj, and complained that the terror-linked teacher dealt with "unwarranted scrutiny" when he returned through U.S. airports from trips to Middle Eastern countries.

Pelosi to Delay Rangel Ethics Trial Until After Election?

Rangel Pelosi photoSo much for draining the swamp. Several sources report that the House will not try Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) until after the November 2 elections. Rangel won the Democratic primary for his seat yesterday, barely achieving 50% of the vote against five challengers. During his House floor speech on August 10 when he was not attacking NLPC, Rangel pleaded for an expedited hearing on the 13 charges leveled against him by the Ethics Committee. This followed months of maneuvering by Rangel to delay the investigation.

CBC Scholarship Scandal Deepens

Sanford Bishop photoA flurry of documents publicized this week appears to show further corruption within the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s scholarship program.

Letters written by CBC member Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and released by her GOP election opponent this week suggest that the congresswoman was more intimately involved with steering $31,000 in CBC scholarships to family members and associates than she previously admitted. The two letters, sent by Rep. Johnson to the CBC Foundation, ask that the organization send the scholarship money directly to her two grandsons and two grand-nephews instead of to their colleges.

CBC Chair Payne Rips Johnson's ‘Unethical Behavior’ But What About His Own?

Donald Payne photoRep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), issued a statement yesterday in response to the controversy swirling around the awarding of 23 scholarships by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) to relatives and associates. The statement read, in part:

Neither the Foundation nor the CBC will allow unethical behavior in the awarding of scholarships or any programs that are designed to benefit the community.

Also:

I will not allow the absence of integrity to invade the Foundation nor the scholarship program…

Payne had nothing to say about his participation in a 2008 Caribbean junket that he knew was funded by big companies like Citigroup in violation of House Rules.

Rep. Johnson Gave 23 Scholarships to Relatives and Associates

Eddie Bernice Johnson photoCongressional Black Caucus member Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) has admitted to steering 23 scholarships worth over $25,000 to two grandchildren, two great nephews and the children of a top aide over the past four years.

The scholarships came from a non-profit affiliate of the CBC called the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, which Rep. Johnson sat on the board of from 2005 to 2008. The Texas congresswoman’s family members and aides’ children were considered ineligible for the scholarships under the foundation’s anti-nepotism rules.

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