Susan Crabtree reports in The Hill today:
The chairman of a House ethics probe into a Caribbean conference attended by members of the Congressional Black Caucus is himself a CBC member who attended the same event in 2005.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), the former judge chosen to chair the ethics probe, has vowed to lead a fair investigation into trips taken by CBC members to St. Maarten in 2008 and Antigua and Barbuda in 2007.
NLPC exposed the 2008 junket. The Hill noted my reaction:
“The CBC really sticks together — you can see their solidarity in the face of these ethics charges,” Flaherty said. “To put one of their own members in charge of the investigation just shows that nothing has changed — the ethics process is still a complete mockery.”
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 trip 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.
On May 22, the House Ethics Committee asked me to provide photographs, audio recordings and other materials related to the trip 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).
On June 24, the Ethics Committee announced that it was investigating the trip, and that Rep. Butterfield, a member of the Committee, would lead the probe. The full Committee is chaired by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and remains under the control of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
The same day, The Hill reported that the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) was upset about the scrutiny of the trip and had formed a task force to “revisit” the House rules that may have been broken. Pelosi tightened restrictions on travel and hospitality in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal, and the infamous golf trip to Scotland.
The CBC’s public hostility to this investigation makes Butterfield’s conflict of interest all the more obvious.
Pelosi has promised to “drain the swamp” of Congressional corruption, but she finds herself in a bind because of her reliance on the Black Caucus for political support. The result is a politically tainted enforcement mechanism like this investigation lead by a Black Caucus member.
Photo: Pelosi and Rangel before Congressional Black Caucus (AP/Wide World)