Is the Justice Department Covering Up Congressional Corruption?

Mollohan photoEthics 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.

“They’re gun-shy,” J. Gerald Hebert, the executive director of the Campaign Legal Center, told the New York Times. The Rep. Stevens case, which collapsed after the Justice Department was found to be suppressing evidence that might have weakened its allegations, was a major embarrassment for department officials.

But the DOJ vigorously denied that it was avoiding prosecuting prominent lawmakers out of fear of a similar mishap.

“It’s just not … Read More ➡

Maxine Waters Backs Off Call for Investigation of House Ethics Committee

Waters photoRep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) has abandoned her efforts to launch an investigation of the House Ethics Committee, which announced it was indefinitely delaying its trial of the congresswoman in late November. Waters was charged over the summer with helping to steer $12 million in federal bailout funds to OneUnited Bank, a bank in which her husband held a considerable financial stake.

On Tuesday, Waters introduced legislation that would create a bipartisan task force to investigate the trial cancelation, which she claims was halted because the ethics committee had insufficient evidence that she violated congressional rules. But today Waters backed away from this measure, announcing that she wouldn’t be calling it to a vote.

The ethics committee has yet to explain the reason for the abrupt trial postponement, but there are indications it may be related to the conduct of two of the committee’s attorneys, who have since been suspended.

There … Read More ➡

Rep. Maxine Waters Trial Postponed in Light of New Evidence

Waters photoThe House Ethics Committee abruptly postponed the high-profile ethics trial of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) on Friday, after new evidence came to light which may contradict some of the congresswoman’s previous claims. The Democratic lawmaker is being charged with helping to steer more than $12 million in federal bailout funds to One United, a bank in which her husband had a substantial financial stake.

The New York Times reported on Friday that emails show that Waters’ office may have been advocating on behalf of OneUnited for longer than she previously admitted. Emails reportedly show that Waters’ chief of staff Mikael Moore was actively involved in discussing details of the bank bailout with members of the House Finiancial Services Committee, after Waters told Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) that she would halt her involvement in banking matters that might conflict with her husband’s financial dealings.

These documents “may directly contradict a bit … Read More ➡

Will Ethics Committee Investigate New Allegation Against Maxine Waters?

The House Ethics Committees says it will take up its charges against Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) following its trial of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY). But what exactly will it consider?

Last August, the congresswoman was charged with violating House ethics rules, for allegedly helping to steer over $12 million in federal bailout funds to a bank in which her husband had a substantial financial stake. Investigators say that Rep. Waters violated conflict-of-interest rules when she set up a meeting between OneUnited Bank officials and the U.S. Treasury Department.

In the interim, the Washington Times reported that Waters co-sponsored legislation that directly benefited one of the top clients of a lobbying group that had her husband on the payroll.

Lobbying records show that lobbyist Mike Roos paid Rep. Waters’ husband Sidney Williams $15,000 for his work as a consultant on a Los Angeles real estate project during the first quarter of … Read More ➡

Rep. Gutierrez Accepted Free Home Upgrades from Tony Rezko

Gutierrez photoRep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) admitted to the FBI that he accepted free upgrades on a town home he purchased from convicted Chicago influence-peddler Tony Rezko, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The congressman has previously been the subject of a federal investigation for engaging in real estate deals with a developer named Calvin Boender.

During a 2008 interview with the FBI, Gutierrez reportedly said that he asked Rezko for upgrades on the town house before purchasing it. The congressman claimed that the price of the home had risen by $35,000 since he had first considered buying it, and Rezko agreed to give him an additional bathroom and a higher quality carpet to make up for the increase in cost.

Gutierrez’s claims to the FBI contradicted previous statements that he made to the Sun-Times  in 2006.

“I walked in with my wife — as any other consumer could have — and … Read More ➡

Did Financier Tied to Barney Frank Secretly Control ‘Woman-Owned’ Hedge Fund?

Sussman photoA liberal financier at the center of two congressional ethics controversies may also be involved in some questionable business dealings, according to the New York Times. S. Donald Sussman, a billionaire hedge-fund titan, made news after his fiancé, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), was accused of traveling on his private jet to campaign events.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) has also been scrutinized for traveling to Sussman’s Virgin Islands mansion on the billionaire’s plane. Republicans have said the trip had the appearance of impropriety, since Frank serves as chair of the House Finance Committee and a company owned by Sussman has received $200 million in federal bailout money.

But a recent lawsuit that Sussman brought against Paamco suggests that the billionaire may have also been involved in fraudulent business practices. The suit claims that a hedge-fund firm primarily bankrolled by Sussman may have been falsely portraying itself as a “women-owned business” … Read More ➡

Barney Frank’s Ties to Bailed-Out Financier Raising Ethics Questions

Barney Frank photoHouse Financial Services Committee Chair Barney Frank (D-MA) is just the latest member of Congress facing scrutiny for taking joy rides on a private jet owned by hedge-fund billionaire and federal bailout recipient S. Donald Sussman.

Republicans say that Frank needs to clear up ethical concerns about his flight to the U.S. Virgin Islands on Sussman’s $25 million private plane in 2009, and his subsequent vacation at the hedge-fund owner’s luxurious Caribbean mansion. Sussman, a major philanthropist to liberal causes, has reportedly raked in $200 million in federal bailout funds for his company Paloma Securities. As head of the House Financial Services Committee, Frank helped push through the Wall Street bailout as well as extensive financial reforms.

According to the Boston Herald, aviation experts said that Frank’s flight could have cost as much as $30,000 each way, but Frank reported that the air travel cost was just $1,500 in … Read More ➡

Did Rep. Pingree Get Engaged to Beat Ethics Rap?

Chellie Pingree photoThe Maine Republican Party has filed a complaint against Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), for reportedly violating federal election laws by flying to a New York campaign fundraiser in a private jet owned by a corporation controlled by her fiancé.

Video captured by the Maine Watchdog shows Rep. Pingree and her fiancé, billionaire liberal philanthropist S. Donald Sussman, traveling on a $25 million jet which belonged to a Magic Carpet Enterprises, LLC., a corporation owned by Sussman. Records obtained by the watchdog group show that Rep. Pingree flew to an airport in White Plains, NY, where she then drove to a fundraising event in New York City.

The Maine GOP says that the trip appeared to be in violation of the Federal Election Campaign Finance Act of 1971, which bars lawmakers from traveling to campaign events on non-commercial private aircraft.

“Lawbreaking by our elected officials is not something we’re accustomed Read More ➡

Rep. Meeks’ Links to Jihadists Get Scrutiny

Meeks photoRep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) lobbied against the federal investigation of a Muslim professor whose charity is suspected of funding Osama bin Laden, according to 2006 documents.

The congressman appealed to several federal agencies on behalf of Islamic scholar Anwar Hajjaj, and complained that the terror-linked teacher dealt with “unwarranted scrutiny” when he returned through U.S. airports from trips to Middle Eastern countries.

According to letters obtained by the New York Post, Meeks described Hajjaj as a “highly regarded” scholar who led Friday prayers on Capitol Hill. The congressman also called the professor “a pioneer in distance-based learning of Islam” at the American Open University, in a letter to former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

The Post reported that Hajjaj has run two charities that were co-founded by Osama bin Laden’s nephew and are accused of funding al Qaeda. The teacher formerly headed the Taibah International Aid Association, and was … Read More ➡

CBC Scholarship Scandal Deepens

Sanford Bishop photoA flurry of documents publicized this week appears to show further corruption within the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s scholarship program.

Letters written by CBC member Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and released by her GOP election opponent this week suggest that the congresswoman was more intimately involved with steering $31,000 in CBC scholarships to family members and associates than she previously admitted. The two letters, sent by Rep. Johnson to the CBC Foundation, ask that the organization send the scholarship money directly to her two grandsons and two grand-nephews instead of to their colleges.

And records from the CBC Foundation revealed that another caucus member, Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA), in photo, also gave three scholarships to his stepdaughter and wife’s niece between 2003 and 2005.

The CBC’s anti-nepotism rule bars members from awarding scholarships to family members or the family members of their staff.

While Rep. Johnson previously said that … Read More ➡