A coalition of good government groups has sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) urging him to appoint a co-chair of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), which should not be confused with the House Ethics Committee. The groups also encouraged Ryan to support OCE, which enjoyed lukewarm support, at best, from his predecessor John Boehner.
OCE was established in 2008 and is somewhat more independent that the Ethics Committee because its board is comprised of former members of Congress and private citizens, rather than sitting members. OCE cannot sanction members but can only make referrals to the Ethics Committee.
Its role and importance were demonstrated in the Charles Rangel case. NLPC President Peter Flaherty tagged along on a Caribbean junket in November 2008 to sunny St. Maarten. He snapped photos and made audio recordings evidencing that the event was underwritten by big corporations like Citigroup, in violation … Read More ➡ “Speaker Ryan Urged to Support Office of Congressional Ethics”
We are asking Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Edith Ramirez to address “contradictions” in testimony she gave to the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 9 regarding the FTC’s dropping of an antitrust action against Google in 2013.
The request points to a variety of evidence obtained through open government laws that suggests that Ramirez and other FTC officials have unusually close relationships with Google, and that those relationships may have helped the company avoid antitrust action.
By highlighting Ramirez' obvious efforts to mislead Congress, we seek to bring public attention to a larger problem. It appears that FTC officials operate much like employees of Google, and that Google calls the shots about its own oversight. This is the most extreme example of “regulatory capture” we have seen in Washington in recent years.
The issue first came to the fore in March 2015 when the Wall Street Journal reported that the FTC … Read More ➡ “FTC Chair Ramirez Asked About Contradictions in Senate Testimony on Google Antitrust Probe”
The following letter was today sent to House Ethics Committee Chairman Charles Dent (R-PA), in photo, and Ranking Member Linda Sanchez (D-CA):
We are writing to express deep concern about the House Ethics Committee’s decision to withhold the findings of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) related to its investigation of Member and staff travel to Azerbaijan. The Committee’s action, along with its order to OCE to “cease and refer” without the Committee having officially started an investigation, sets a dangerous precedent that could fundamentally undermine the important benefits that OCE has brought to the House ethics process.
On July 31, the House Ethics Committee issued its report, “In the Matter of Officially- Connected Travel by House Members to Azerbaijan in 2013” (“the Ethics Committee Report”). In the Ethics Committee Report, the Committee concluded that no Members knowingly violated House ethics rules and standards while raising concerns about possible criminal … Read More ➡ “Ethics Groups Demand Ethics Committee Release Azerbaijan Junket Report”
Melvin E. Lowe, a New York political consultant, was found guilty yesterday of conspiring with State Senator John Sampson of Brooklyn (in photo) to defraud the New York Senate Democratic Campaign Committee out of $100,000. Sampson is under indictment on unrelated charges of embezzlement, obstruction of justice and making false statements to the FBI. He allegedly embezzled $440,000 from escrow accounts on foreclosed properties.
Sampson and Lowe were caught up in an investigation prompted by NLPC’s exposé of former State Senator Shirley Huntley, who was jailed for looting a nonprofit organization she founded, for which political allies had arranged to secure taxpayer funds. The scheme was detailed in a New York Post article of March 6, 2011.
NLPC uncovered Huntley’s fraud while reviewing public documents of nonprofit organizations associated with New York politicians. The review was initiated after NLPC exposed financial irregularities in a nonprofit called New Direction Local … Read More ➡ “Sampson’s Consultant Convicted of Fraud”
New York City Democratic leader Albert Baldeo was convicted last week of seven counts of obstruction of justice. He was acquitted on three counts of fraud related to the use of straw donors to qualify for taxpayer matching funds for 2010 for his unsuccessful City Council campaign. The scheme was exposed by NLPC and was the subject of a New York Post story on October 11, 2011.
Baldeo is a close associate of Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY). The two shared an office from 2006 to 2009. The two have jointly sponsored workshops and programs on immigration and mortgage foreclosure. Meeks even arranged for a Congressional Proclamation in 2009 that called Baldeo a “visionary leader” and thanked him for his community service. See photo.
Preet Bharara, the US District Attorney for the Southern District of New York who prosecuted the case, released this statement:
The fact that Albert Baldeo lost his
… Read More ➡ “Meeks Crony Baldeo Convicted of Obstruction of Justice”
On Wednesday the New York Times published an account of how New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his staff derailed the workings of an anti-corruption commission that Cuomo had established with great fanfare just months earlier. A New York state law from 1907 named for its sponsor, Sherman Moreland, allows the governor to appoint investigators with subpoena power to seek out corruption in state government.
Cuomo appointed the commission in July 2013 in response to newspaper headlines generated by NLPC and the subsequent arrests of three New York State Senators. We were encouraged by the creation of the commission although we were dubious that Cuomo was sincere about reform. As we pointed out in May 2013 when Cuomo used the term “scandalmania” and made several modest anti-corruption proposals:
While we welcome these proposals, they should not be used by Cuomo to construct a narrative that it is himself against the
… Read More ➡ “NY Times: Cuomo ‘Hobbled’ Anti-Corruption Moreland Commission”
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is claiming that Cuban intelligence operatives may have planted reports that he patronized underage prostitutes. According to a Washington Post story on Monday by Carol Leonnig and Manuel Roig-Franzia:
The alleged Cuba connection was laid out in an intelligence report provided last year to U.S. government officials and sent by secure cable to the FBI’s counterintelligence division, according to the former official and a second person with close ties to Menendez who had been briefed on the matter.
The Post apparently did not have a copy of the “report,” nor could it verify its existence. To us, this whole thing sounds about as mysterious and vague as the original prostitution reports, but it really doesn’t matter. Menendez faces far more serious allegations.
Something very damaging, perhaps the indictment of his top donor Dr. Salomon Melgen, may be about to break. It is obvious what Menendez is … Read More ➡ “Menendez Tries to Blame Castro For Ethics Woes”
It took a lawsuit by the Wall Street Journal to pry loose information from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services about which doctors get Medicare reimbursements.
An lo and behold, look who is topping the list. It is Dr. Salomon Melgen, Senator Robert Menendez’ biggest donor, whose eye practice in Palm Beach, Florida has been twice raided by the FBI. Apparently, Melgen was the top recipient of Medicare reimbursements for the whole county. In 2012, he received more than $20 million. The news has put renewed scrutiny on Melgen and his relationship with Menendez, which is reportedly under investigation by federal law enforcement authorities.
The probe was reportedly initiated after media reports that Menendez intervened on Melgen’s behalf with government officials regarding a Medicare billing dispute and a port security deal in the Dominican Republic.
Based on information provided by NLPC, the New York Times first reported on February … Read More ➡ “Renewed Spotlight on Salomon Melgen, Sen. Menendez’ Biggest Donor”
Last month, I wrote about pressure on state pension funds, many of which are underfunded and are facing immense pressure to chase higher returns. I profiled a $125 million investment made by the New Mexico Educational Retirement Board (NMERB) into Gramercy, a Connecticut-based hedge fund.
As we showed last month, there were some gaps between what Gramercy disclosed to NMERB and what we found in official records. Now Gramercy is making big news as a potential facilitator of a settlement between Argentina and holdout creditors. According to news reports, Gramercy and other bondholders who took Argentina’s 2010 bond exchange are pushing a settlement.
Apparently this has been in the works for a while, according to a presentation Gramercy made to New Hampshire’s retirement fund in 2012. Click here to download a 47-page pdf version. We obtained this via New Hampshire’s Right-to-Know law. Note the detail on page 22 on Gramercy’s … Read More ➡ “State Pension Funds and Big Investment Firms: What Could Possibly Go Wrong? (Part 2)”