House Financial Services Committee Chair Barney Frank (D-MA) is just the latest member of Congress facing scrutiny for taking joy rides on a private jet owned by hedge-fund billionaire and federal bailout recipient S. Donald Sussman.
Republicans say that Frank needs to clear up ethical concerns about his flight to the U.S. Virgin Islands on Sussman's $25 million private plane in 2009, and his subsequent vacation at the hedge-fund owner's luxurious Caribbean mansion. Sussman, a major philanthropist to liberal causes, has reportedly raked in $200 million in federal bailout funds for his company Paloma Securities. As head of the House Financial Services Committee, Frank helped push through the Wall Street bailout as well as extensive financial reforms.
It’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:
The 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.
In 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."
Rep. 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.
Congressional 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.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) held a press conference Friday to refute charges that she gave political help to a bank with ties to her husband, just days after another House Democrat, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), also defended himself against ethics charges in an unusually public manner.
“What I’m doing now is outside of the box, beyond what’s normally done,” said Waters at the 90-minute press conference, which included an extensive slide-show disputing House Ethics Committee allegations that she helped secure over $12 million in federal bailout funds for OneUnited Bank, a bank in which her husband had a substantial financial stake.
The Complaint focuses on Rep. Rangel's efforts to direct millions of dollars in taxpayers' money to a politically well-connected but financially unstable nonprofit called Alianza Dominicana. Rangel's relationship with the controversial group based in New York City was the subject of a front page story in the Sunday August 8, 2010 New York Post.
The House ethics committee announced Monday that it is charging Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) with congressional rules violations, just days after another House Democrat, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), was also hit with ethics charges by the committee.
The ethics committee has not released the details of Rep. Waters’ alleged violations, but the charges are believed to stem from the congresswoman’s suspected attempt to obtain bailout funds for a bank where her husband served as a boardmember.
Rep. Waters has denied the allegations, and said she will fight them in a public hearing.