House Ethics Committee

With Boehner Going, Ethics Committee Must Release Azerbaijan Junket Report

John Boehner’s Speakership was a setback for Congressional ethics. He backslid on a number of important reforms, and helped to return the Ethics Committee to its traditional role of covering up wrongdoing by incumbent members of Congress.

Boehner ally Rep. Charles Dent (R-PA), the Chairman of the Ethics Committee, is currently orchestrating a whitewash of apparent House rules violations related to a junket by ten House members to Azerbaijan in 2013.

Ethics Groups Demand Ethics Committee Release Azerbaijan Junket Report

The following letter was today sent to House Ethics Committee Chairman Charles Dent (R-PA), in photo, and Ranking Member Linda Sanchez (D-CA):

We are writing to express deep concern about the House Ethics Committee’s decision to withhold the findings of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) related to its investigation of Member and staff travel to Azerbaijan.  The Committee’s action, along with its order to OCE to “cease and refer” without the Committee having officially started an investigation, sets a dangerous precedent that could fundamentally undermine the important benefits that OCE has brought to the House ethics process.

Azerbaijan Junket Broke House Rules

According to a report by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) that was leaked to the Washington Post, ten House members broke House Rules when they took an all-expenses paid trip in 2013 to a conference in Baku, Azerbaijan, courtesy of an oil company known as SOCAR. Also enjoying free trips were 32 staff members.

Azerbaijan is a country in Central Asia ruled by strongman Ilham Aliyev. In 2012, the Organized Crime and Corruption Project named him its “Person of the Year” for doing “the most to promote organized criminal activity or advance corruption.”

Report: Mollohan Should Have Been Indicted

Alan MollohanDocuments obtained by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) from the Department of Justice provide "hard evidence" that former Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) should have been prosecuted after NLPC exposed his questionable financial dealings, and triggered a Justice Department investigation.

CREW executive director Melanie Sloan told Politico yesterday, "It was clear the Justice Department should have indicted Mollohan."

Mollohan was defeated for re-election in 2010 in a Democratic primary. His ethics woes were a key issue in the campaign.

Meeks Pushed for Iran Sanction Exemption After Azerbaijan Junket

There’s fallout from the July 27 Houston Chronicle exposé of a trip to Azerbaijan by 10 member of the House that violated House rules. The trip was ostensibly sponsored by nonprofit groups but was actually funded by oil companies BP, Conoco Phillips and SOCAR, the national oil company of Azerbaijan. According to the New York Post today:

Rep. Gregory Meeks pushed to let an Iran-backed natural-gas project dodge US sanctions — after attending an illicit junket paid for by energy companies.

Rangel's Dominican Politics

Rangel in beach chairRep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) faces a primary election tomorrow against State Senator Adriano Espaillat, who came within 1,100 votes of upsetting him two years ago, and Harlem preacher Rev. Michael Wolrund. If elected, Espaillat would be the first Dominican elected to Congress. In a June 6 televised debate, Rangel invoked Espaillat's ethnicity:

Just what the heck has he done besides saying he's a Dominican?...He wants to be the Jackie Robinson of the Dominicans in the Congress, which is ambitious, but the fact is, Jackie Robinson was a star before he reached the major leagues. And he's not a Jackie Robinson.

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.

Boehm Warns About Special Interest Funding of Congressional Travel

Rangel in lounge chairAmanda Becker reports in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call today that outside groups spent $3.6 million to sponsor foreign trips for members of Congress and their staffs in 2012.  The article includes my comments:

"Congressmen are frequently accused of living inside a bubble. So you can make a good case that members should be traveling and getting to see certain things overseas," Boehm said.

"But all too often they have been arranged by groups that have very pronounced legislative interests," he added. "And what's more enticing than having the possibility of talking [to lawmakers] in a relaxed, vacation resort-type setting?"

CNN Looks at Threats to Office of Congressional Ethics

I was interviewed in a report that aired last night by Scott Bronstein, Joe Johns, and Rahel Solomon of CNN's Special Investigations Unit. The text of this very well done story appears below. One point not made in the report is that without the Office of Congressional Ethics, our exposé of Rep. Charles Rangel's acceptance of corporate-funded Caribbean junkets may have been ignored.

Ethics Committee Can't Find Anything Wrong With Secret Loan From Fraudster to Rep. Gregory Meeks

Meeks photoAhmad photoToday the House Ethics Committee announced that it was taking no action against Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) who secretly took a $40,000 payment from an individual who subsequently pled guilty in a multi-million-dollar mortgage scam.

In 2007, Meeks received $40,000 from a "businessman," Edul Ahmad.  Under the Ethics in Government Act, Congressmen are required to disclose such financial transactions on their annual Financial Disclosure Reports.  Meeks failed to disclose the transaction on his reports for 2007, 2008 and 2009.

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