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.
Today 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.
On Wednesday, I took part in a press conference with leaders of other ethics groups to show support for the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), which should not be confused with the House Ethics Committee.
OCE was established in 2008 and is slightly more independent that the Ethics Committee because its board is comprised of former members of Congress and private citizens, rather than sitting members. OCE cannot sanction members but can only make referrals to the Ethics Committee.
Federal Prosecutors and lawyers for Guyanese businessman Edul Ahmad (photo, right), who has been indicted in a $50 million dollar mortgage fraud scheme, have apparently reached a plea arrangement that will be made public next month.
Ahmad made a $40,000 payment to Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) in 2007 that the Congressman failed to disclose on his Financial Disclosure Reports for 2007, 2008, and 2009. Meeks subsequently claimed the $40,000 payment was a loan, but there were no note or payments until several years after the payment was made. Last year the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate the matter. The OCE reported that Rep. Meeks "refused to cooperate with the OCE's investigation."
On August 5, the House Ethics Committee announced that it has accepted a recommendation by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) to "further review an allegation that Representative (Gregory) Meeks failed to disclose a payment he received in 2007 in a timely manner."
The payment was an unsecured $40,000 "loan" from Edul Ahmad, a Guyanese businessman who was last month arrested in a massive mortgage-fraud scheme. On July 22, the FBI reportedly removed Ahmad in handcuffs from a Guyana-bound aircraft on the tarmac at JFK International Airport.
Ethics 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.
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.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), charged with violating House ethics rules, said today on ABC’s Good Morning America that the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) is "not very tight, they don't do very good work, rather sloppy work."
Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-MI) was defeated in a Democratic primary yesterday. Kilpatrick was one of six members of Congress investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics and the House Ethics Committee for accepting a corporate-sponsored Caribbean junket in November 2008. I attended the event in St. Maarten before organizers had me detained by the Police Korps of St. Maarten. The investigations were launched on the basis of my photographs, audio recordings and other evidence of sponsorship by companies like Citigroup.