According to a report by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) that was leaked to the Washington Post, ten House members broke House Rules when they took an all-expenses paid trip in 2013 to a conference in Baku, Azerbaijan, courtesy of an oil company known as SOCAR. Also enjoying free trips were 32 staff members.
Azerbaijan is a country in Central Asia ruled by strongman Ilham Aliyev. In 2012, the Organized Crime and Corruption Project named him its “Person of the Year” for doing “the most to promote organized criminal activity or advance corruption.”
As we have expected for some time, Dr. Salomon Melgen was indicted today for Medicare fraud. The dollar amounts of his alleged ripoff are staggering. From 2008 to 2013, Melgen billed Medicare $190 million and received $105 million.
Hopefully, this indictment will put an end to the fiction that Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) went to bat for him in a “billing dispute.” Menendez was trying to thwart a fraud investigation, and successfully enlisted the help of then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).
The indictment will also hopefully put to rest the allegation that Menendez is being pursued for political reasons. The Justice Department has certainly pulled its punches in recent years by failing to prosecute Reps. Charles Rangel (D-NY), Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and former Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), but the level of Menendez/Melgen corruption is apparently too much even for this Justice Department.
CNN reporter Chris Frates has identified “plenty of red flags” that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush should have seen before he joined in a business relationship with a company called InnoVida, headed by Claudio Osorio, who is now serving a 12 ½-year prison sentence for defrauding investors. Osorio's mug shot is at right.
While Osorio’s efforts to cozy up to politicians in both parties have been previously reported, the CNN report includes important new facts. From the report:
"It's hard to imagine any due diligence investigation that would have missed lawsuit after lawsuit against Osorio alleging fraud, misrepresentation and ethics violations," said Ken Boehm, the chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, an ethics watchdog group that reviewed public records with CNN. "Even if they were doing due-diligence lite, they would have found the lawsuits. These lawsuits weren't hidden. They were in his home county."
NLPC Associate Fellow Mark Modica was a guest on Closing Bell today on CNBC. He was joined by Kevin O'Leary of Shark Tank.
Here is a transcript:
Sara Eisen: At first it seemed like it was just another activist investors at work but our next guest says something else is in play here. We're talking about Harry Wilson, the restructuring expert who served on President Obama's auto industry task force during the financial crisis and was instrumental in bringing GM out of bankruptcy. Now Wilson is a GM activist investor and represents hedge funds holding a total of 34 million shares asking General Motors' CEO Mary Barra for a seat on the board and is pressing for a stock buyback, Simon.
“If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension” – so observed George Burns, who managed to live just past his 100th birthday. George J. Heideman apparently never got that memo. Now 102, the not-quite-retired Heideman has been doing a lot of worrying lately.
He’s come out with a new book published by NLPC called “To Restore American Liberty: A 21st Century Patriot’s Declaration of Personal Independence.” A 280-page collection of essays, observations, and letters to newspaper editors, congressmen and at least one president, the book is a credible primer in natural rights for our political class. His goal: restoring lost liberties.
Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s choice to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General, has an especially weak record of investigating and prosecuting political corruption. Moreover, her longstanding ties to the New York political machine have limited her independence as a prosecutor.
Lynch, who currently serves as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, has watched as Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the neighboring Southern District of New York, has prosecuted case after case. And Bharara would not have acted except for a slew of newspaper headlines about political corruption generated by the National Legal and Policy Center.
We conducted these investigations from afar, based primarily by an examination of public documents, without the benefit of tools available to prosecutors. Loretta Lynch had nothing to do with exposing all this corruption that was taking place right under her nose.
Yesterday, the White House provided a background briefing via conference call for reporters covering President Obama’s speech last night on the American response to the advance of ISIL. A “senior administration official,” who was not identified by name fielded the question of “which countries will join the United States in launching airstrikes in this area?”
The administration official is now probably glad he was not identified. He probably should have consulted a map before giving this answer:
ISIL has been I think a galvanizing threat around the Sunni partners in the region. They view it as an existential threat to them. Saudi Arabia has an extensive border with Syria. The Jordanians are experiencing a destabilizing impact of over a million refugees from the Syrian conflict, and are profoundly concerned that ISIL, who has stated that their ambitions are not confined to Iraq and Syria, but rather to expand to the
State Senator Malcolm Smith, a former Senate Majority Leader, yesterday lost a Democratic primary for his seat in Queens. He is scheduled to face a retrial in January for attempting to bribe Republican Party officials to allow him to run for New York City mayor as a Republican in 2013.
Smith, and his finances, first came under scrutiny by federal prosecutors after NLPC exposed his involvement with a charity called New Direction Local Development Corporation. Along with U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Smith used New Direction as a political slush fund. Among other financial irregularities, the nonprofit raised money for Hurricane Katrina victims who never received the money.
Washington’s metaphorical “revolving door” keeps on spinning. A recent case involving a former Air Force procurement official is at the center of a high-stakes dispute over the launching of rockets into space, and the huge contracts that go with them.
From March 2011 to January of this year, Roger “Scott” Correll (in photo) was the official at the Pentagon responsible for procuring launch services from private companies. One of his last official acts before his “retirement” in January was to oversee a deal with a company called United Launch Alliance (ULA) for a whopping 36 future launches. ULA is a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed.
This month, Correll popped up with a new job with Aerojet Rocketdyne, which just happens to supply rocket engines to ULA. His title is Vice President for Government Acquisition and Policy, seemingly more than befitting of his role.