Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) is one of 31 House conferees appointed by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) on the financial regulation bill. When he was named on June 9, Meeks claimed:
As conferee I plan to make sure that by having a strong presence of financial oversight and accountability in this legislation U.S. consumers will have the necessary financial protection and be as financially informed as possible.
But now Meeks is using “oversight” in a different context. You see, when he failed to disclose $55,000 in personal loans as required, he called it an “oversight.” This excuse sounded downright familiar to us. It is the same one cited by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) when he failed to report hundreds of thousands in income and assets.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has signified that she’s open to reigning in the power of an independent congressional ethics board, even though she urged the creation of the board in 2008, reported The Hill.
Two years ago, House Speaker Pelosi strongly backed the establishment of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), a bipartisan board made up of private citizens, saying that it would “bring an additional measure of transparency to the ethics enforcement process.” But at a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus – a group which wants to "reform" the OCE – Pelosi and House Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), in photo, reportedly indicated that they were willing to reconsider changing some of the OCE’s rules.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have asked the House to curtail the power of a congressional ethics board, after multiple members of the caucus have come under investigation by the board over the past year.
Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH) introduced legislation at the end of May, which was co-sponsored by 19 other members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The bill would restrict the Office of Congressional Ethics -- which is a bipartisan board staffed solely with private citizens -- from releasing the results of its investigations in cases that the House Ethics Committee decides have no merit. The OCE would also be barred from initiating investigations of its own, and would instead have to wait for a complaint to be filed by a citizen with intimate knowledge of the alleged malfeasance.
The Office of Congressional Ethics voted unanimously last week to ask the U.S. Justice Department to review documents in the PMA Group pay-to-play scheme.
The OCE, a bipartisan board created by congress and composed of private citizens, released a statement of May 27 saying that it would send the Justice Department "evidence [that] pertains to a factual finding by the OCE Board that certain persons and companies saw their campaign donations as affecting decisions about earmarks."
Steven T. Dennis of CQ-Roll Call interviewed former House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY) last week and reports:
The veteran New York Democrat still wants his Ways and Means chairmanship back, but he doesn't want reporters to write that he's planning to fight for it. He wants and needs the ethics committee to clear his name, but he feels it already sandbagged him with an unjustified admonishment that appears nowhere in House rules and gave him no chance to challenge the finding.
Rangel “temporarily” stepped down from his Chairmanship on March 3, the same way that Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) “temporarily” resigned as ranking member on the Ethics Committee in 2006. Mollohan did not come back and neither will Rangel.
Rep. Alan Mollohan, whose finances were the subject of a four-year federal probe triggered by NLPC, was defeated yesterday in the Democratic primary in West Virginia’s first Congressional District. The 14-term Congressman was beaten 56 to 44 percent by state Senator Mike Oliverio, who made corruption the centerpiece of his campaign. Mollohan accused Oliverio of “spreading right-wing smears.”
The investigation began in February 2006 after NLPC filed a 500-page Complaint with the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia alleging that Mollohan failed to report millions in assets on his Congressional disclosure forms in order to conceal cozy financial relationships with recipients of earmarks he had arranged.
Two 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.
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) used campaign cash to repay the costs of his corporate-sponsored Caribbean trips after being asked to pay for the trips himself by the House Ethics Commitee, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) records. Rangel has also continued to pay legal fees connected to his ethics problems from his campaign funds.
After being publically admonished by the House Ethics Committee for accepting travel gifts from corporations, the congressman spent $3,480 from his campaign on Caribbean "travel refunds," according to his April FEC campaign report.
Rep. 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.
On 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.