Government Integrity Project

Labor Department Solicitor Adopts Plan to Bully Employers

Patricia Smith photoWhen Department of Labor Solicitor M. Patricia "Trisha" Smith testified at a Senate confirmation hearing more than a year and a half ago, her track record as New York State Commissioner of Labor, and her comments about it, prompted leading Republicans to postpone action for several months. Their fears in hindsight appear well-founded. An article appearing in last Friday's Wall Street Journal reported that DOL staff, under Smith's supervision, a couple months earlier had issued a draft "operating plan" to dramatically step up enforcement against private-sector employers likely to have committed unfair labor practices. The details of the now-adopted plan indicate Smith, like her boss, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, views the department's relationship with business as necessarily highly adversarial.

Prove GM Success by Getting Taxpayers Out of Ally Financial

Ally Bank photoThe General Motors' IPO has lead to the Obama Administration declaring victory for a successful GM restructuring. GM executives echo the optimistic view of a now healthy auto company with a "fortress like" balance sheet since the infusion of over $50 billion of taxpayer money. There is still one major test left to see just how healthy GM is.

Rangel Confronted With New Ethics Allegations

Appearing on New York City's Channel 5 this morning, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) was asked about allegations that he improperly used funds from his so-called National Leadership PAC for his legal defense in his House ethics case. Rangel responded by calling the allegations "ridiculous" and attacking NLPC.

Rep. Gregory Meeks Failed to Report Gambling Winnings

Meeks photoBenjamin Lesser of the New York Daily News reports today that Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) on November 17 amended his 2008 financial disclosure forms to show $3,500 in "gambling winnings." This disclosure, late by two years, raises more questions than it answers. According to the Daily News:

The amendment does not say how Meeks won the money, where he was gambling or how much he bet. It merely says: "In 2008, I had gambling winnings of approximately $3,500."

House Censures Charles Rangel; Ex-Ways and Means Chair DID Profit From Corruption

On the House floor tonight, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) again asserted that he did not personally gain from the acts of which he is accused, notwithstanding the fact that he failed to report, or pay taxes on, rental income received from his Dominican Republic beach house. Rangel seems to believe that if you repeatedly say something, it becomes true, no matter how absurd.

We Welcome Charles Rangel Censure, But Criminal Prosecution Must Follow

Rangel & Holder photoToday's imminent censure of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) is the result of Ethics Committee investigations that went much further than we expected, even after we exposed Rangel's failure to pay taxes on income from his Dominican Republic beach house and his acceptance of corporate-funded Caribbean junkets.

Rangel filed the ethics complaint against himself in late 2008. He no doubt expected the Committee to cover up for him, fulfilling the same role it has played during Rangel's 40 years in Congress. Rangel seems amazed that the accusations against him could result in his censure. Perhaps he feels betrayed by the Democratic leadership and the institution of Congress that traditionally has taken care of its own.

Lame Duck Congress Approves $4.55 Billion to Settle Pigford, Indian Land Trust Suits

money in handDemanding reparations from the federal government is now a growth industry. And Congress just helped it grow some more. Yesterday the House of Representatives voted 256-152 to authorize $4.55 billion to settle a pair of unrelated longstanding class-action lawsuits, one against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the other against the Department of the Interior. In the first case, tens of thousands of black farmers - or at least blacks claiming to have been farmers - will receive $1.15 billion for alleged discrimination during 1981-96 at the hands of administrators of USDA aid programs, but who filed (or could have filed) claims after the deadline. This would be on top of the more than $1 billion that over 15,000 other plaintiffs have received. In the second case, an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 Indians will receive access to a $3.4 billion trust fund intended to rectify alleged Interior Department mishandling of royalty payments for the extraction of oil, gas, timber and other natural resources from tribal lands for economic activity. The Senate on November 19 unanimously had approved the settlements.

NLPC Alleges Rangel Illegally Used Leadership PAC Funds for Legal Defense

Rangel photoNLPC yesterday filed a Complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging that Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) violated the Federal Election Campaign Act by using almost $400,000 in funds from his National Leadership PAC to pay legal bills related to the House Ethics Committee actions against him. The Committee yesterday referred a censure resolution to the entire House after earlier this month finding Rangel guilty of violating House rules on 11 counts. Click here to download an 11-page pdf of the Complaint.

As the Complaint points out:

GM's Smoke and Mirrors Accounting

GM logoGeneral Motor's CEO, Dan Akerson, recently proclaimed that GM's balance sheet was "pristine" and that the company was aiming to have zero debt in the future. I guess the question is, "how do you define pristine?"

The recent prospectus for GM's Preferred Series "B" share offering gives the following accounting of some of the company's liabilities: as of September 30, 2010, $10.3 billion of outstanding debt and $9 billion Preferred Series "A" obligations. In addition, there are still under-funded UAW pension obligations of over $20 billion. The Preferred "B" share offering was for another approximate $4.5 billion of shares paying a 4.75% dividend.  This is money that GM already has mostly committed to UAW obligations.

HUD Report Reveals Misspending by ACORN Affiliate; Seeks Repayment

ACORN evidenceThe radical nationwide nonprofit network, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now - better known as ACORN - has wound down operations in an effort at damage control. A new government report suggests more spin will be needed. On September 21 the Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), released an evaluation (see pdf) of certain expenditures of ACORN Housing Corporation (AHC), one of the largest affiliates under the ACORN umbrella. The review concluded that the Chicago-based nonprofit had misspent a sizable portion of the roughly $3.25 million it received from HUD during fiscal years 2008-09. While that $3.25 million figure in turn was only a little over a tenth of the more than $30 million in grants to AHC during that two-year period, the audit suggests that the entity, like its parent organization, has had a serious ethical blind spot. And HUD wants some of the money back.

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