Self-investigation has never been a signature virtue of Congress. So taxpayers should closely monitor the House ethics committee’s inquiry into the lucrative relationships between defense appropriators and military contractors.
The committee finally confirmed the inquiry — not yet a full-blown investigation — into suspicions that members and staffers earmarked hundreds of millions in defense contracts for favored companies in return for tens of millions in political donations. In a separate matter, the ethics committee opened an inquiry into whether Caribbean trips taken by Representative Charles Rangel and four other lawmakers violated House gift rules. It is encouraging to see such curiosity from the traditionally somnolent panel.
We too are glad that the Ethics Committee is looking into these matters, especially since we are the source of the allegations about the Rangel-led Caribbean junket. But it will take more than “curiosity” to deal with the current wave of corruption in Congress.
Already embroiled in an ethics probe now entering its tenth month, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, received more bad news Wednesday night as the House ethics committee announced it would look into Caribbean trips taken by the veteran lawmaker and four other Democrats.
In a statement released late Wednesday night, Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Jo Bonner (R-Ala.), the chairwoman and ranking member of the ethics committee, announced that the panel had voted to create a four-member investigative subcommittee to determine whether the trips violated House gift rules.
Mike Soraghan reports in today’s edition of The Hill:
An investigation into a trip taken by members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is triggering a backlash against the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s signature ethics proposal.
CBC members, frustrated at what they perceive as an accusation by a conservative group that’s been blown out of proportion, last week formed a working group to look at taking on the 2006 resolution that created the OCE.
The junket to sunny St. Maarten took place the weekend after the election in 2008. I attended in order to document violations of House Rules that prohibit corporate sponsorship of travel and hospitality.
The House ethics committee is investigating an alleged quid pro quo between Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and an oil company executive, the subject of a lengthy New York Times article published in December.
Eugene Isenberg, the oil executive accused of trying to influence Rangel through a $1 million donation to the education center bearing Rangel's name, is cooperating with an ethics committee investigation into the matter and predicts that the panel will find no wrongdoing.
The assertion was caught on tape during a conversation with Peter Flaherty of the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative watchdog that has investigated several ethics stories about Rangel. Flaherty approached Isenberg at the company’s annual meeting in Houston last week, taped the conversation and provided The Hill a transcript and audio recording.
As detailed in a previous entry, I actually questioned Isenberg (pictured) during the formal Q&A session of the Nabors Industries annual meeting on June 2. NLPC is a Nabors shareholder.
The Waxman-Markey bill, currently under consideration by several House committees, would impose a huge energy tax on the American people in the name of combating the scientifically unproven global warming threat. The Heritage Foundation estimates the average household will have to pay an extra $1,500 per year for gas and electricity while the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) puts that number at about $1,600.
That is why congressional Democrats and liberal advocates are trying to avoid this unpleasant fact by simply not admitting that the Waxman-Markey bill is a tax increase. They understand that if the public perceives this legislation for what it is - an energy tax - then it will fail.
Eugene Isenberg, Chairman and CEO of Nabors Industries, is smiling in the photo at right but he wasn’t happy when I questioned him at the company’s annual meeting in Houston on Tuesday, June 2.
Isenberg’s controversial $1 million pledge to the so-called Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York came at a time when Rangel helped preserve a loophole that allowed Nabors to save tens of millions in taxes after moving to the Bahamas. These facts were first reported in the New York Times in an article by David Kocieniewski in late 2008.
Under my questioning, Isenberg again denied any quid pro quo. He also denied that there was any “understanding” or a “wink and a nod.” He would not even concede an appearance problem.
On May 22, the House Ethics Committee asked NLPC if to provide photographs, audio recordings and other materials related to a trip to the sunny Caribbean island of St. Maarten in November 2008 by the following five House members: Charles Rangel (D-NY), Donald Payne (D-NJ), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-MI), Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Donna Christensen (D-VI).
I was present in St. Maarten, where I documented violations of House Rules that prohibit corporate sponsorship of travel and hospitality.
When I inquired whether this matter was under investigation, I was told that House Rules prevented the Committee from confirming an investigation. We provided the material on May 29 along with a formal request for an investigation.
At her press conference last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated that she had learned of waterboarding in 2003, contradicting her earlier claims. Pelosi’s lie is getting the attention it deserves, but getting less attention is her remarkable explanations for her actions. At several points, she stated that her goal was to elect a Democratic Congress and a new president. She seemed to plead with the reporters to understand that torture was most important as an issue with which to defeat Republicans.
Well then, if the torture issue is a political weapon, and its actual practice is of secondary concern, we must ask the question about Pelosi’s sincerity when it comes to Congressional ethics. After all, she promised to “drain the swamp.” Democrats have a majority in large part because of the ethics issue.
House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY) is all for Barack Obama’s proposal to tax the income of subsidiaries of American companies earned abroad. Bloomberg quoted Rangel as saying:
Our tax code should reward companies that thrive by continuing to invest in America and American workers. I applaud President Obama’s commitment to simplifying our tax code and look forward to working with the administration to close these loopholes.
Does this mean Charlie will refund the $200,000 (of a million dollar pledge) he’s received from Bermuda-based Nabors Industries, formerly of Houston? It would only be fair.