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.
The sponsor of the trip was the Carib News Foundation, but it was funded by “lead sponsor” Citigroup, a major recipient of bailout funds, which contributed $100,000. Other sponsors included IBM, AT&T, Verizon, Pfizer, Macy’s and American Airlines.
As Susan Crabtree points out The Hill:
Democrats imposed stricter limits on corporate-sponsored travel to prevent the type of abuse unearthed during the Jack Abramoff scandal. Lawmakers who attended Abramoff-organized golf junkets to London and Scotland, as well as other luxurious locales, listed several nonprofits as having paid for the travel even though corporations footed the bill.
This junket was described in a major article in the New York Post on November 30, 2008, and was also the subject of an article in The Hill on January 28, 2009. Moreover, I discussed it on CNBC on January 29, 2009. Yet it took months for the Committee to request the evidence from NLPC.
Isabel Vincent reported in the May 31 New York Post:
“The committee is looking very seriously at this trip because of all the members of Congress who attended,” said a source close to the investigation.
I am happy if the Committee is finally looking into this, but I wonder if it is a substitute for more important investigations of Rangel’s tax evasion, and John Murtha’s pay-to-play empire.