House Ethics Committee to Clear Rangel, Other Caribbean Junketeers?

palm treePaul Singer of Roll Call is reporting:

The House ethics committee is likely to exonerate five members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) who were accused of taking an improper trip to the Caribbean, according to sources familiar with the case.

If this is true, we are not surprised. When we provided photographs and audio recordings from the trip at the request of the Committee in May, we made clear that our willingness to do so was not an endorsement of the Ethics Committee process, which has again proven to be a joke.

Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-NC), a member of the CBC, who was appointed just days after the CBC publicly objected to the probe, heads the investigation of the trip. He went on the same trip in a previous year.

Because the violations of House Rules by Rangel and Co. were so clear-cut, the Committee maintains its reputation for ineffectiveness. The Rules against corporate sponsorship of multi-day Congressional travel and hospitality were tightened at the behest of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi herself in the wake of the Jack Abramoff golf trip to Scotland. The new Rules apparently do not trump partisan and racial double standards.

Last week, much was made of the leaked Ethics Committee document summarizing a variety of investigations that are purportedly underway, underscoring how corrupt Congress is. But Majority Leader Steny Hoyer spun it the other way, claiming that the memo showed that this Congress is the “most ethical” in history.

It doesn’t matter what the Ethics Committee investigates, if it does not take action. If it will not do anything about five members of Congress taking a junket to sunny St. Maarten, courtesy of Citigroup and other corporations, how is it ever going to deal the complicated cases of John Murtha’s “pay to play” empire and Charles Rangel’s tax evasion and hiding of assets?

The answer is that it can’t and probably will not.

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 Butterfield, a member of the Committee, would lead the probe. The full Committee is chaired by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).


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