Why Haven’t Obama, Pelosi Jettisoned Rep. Gregory Meeks?

Meeks photoYou would think that Democratic leaders would distance themselves from a member of Congress who has been identified with Ponzi swindler Allen Stanford, not to mention a charity that is now under federal investigation for fraudulently raising money for Hurricane Katrina victims. Nope.

According to one media report:

President Barack Obama of the United States of America has dispatched a five-member delegation of US congressmen led by Representative Gregory Meeks to Zimbabwe.

Maybe it is appropriate, after all. Meeks seems to have a special rapport with tyrants. Zimbabwe is one the most corrupt places on the face of the earth and strongman Robert Mugabe has done his best to destroy democracy, human rights and private property.

The Miami Herald reported in December that former Stanford employees alleged that Stanford asked Meeks in 2006 to help retaliate against a former Stanford executive named Gonzalo Tirado in Venezuela who was attempting to blow the whistle on Stanford fraud. Stanford allegedly asked Meeks to call Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez. Stanford wanted Chavez to go after whistleblower Tirado, who was indicted a year later.

Mugabe met with Meeks and the others, taking time out from a busy week of enhancing his despot credentials. Mugabe is trying to force foreign-owned companies to achieve black-majority shareholders status within five years. And they will have 45 days to tell the government how they are going to do it. No doubt, Mugabe is willing to provide a convenient list of relatives and cronies who can serve as shareholders. According to the Wall Street Journal:

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, until February 2009 an opposition leader, has ordered the law withdrawn, saying it will heighten Zimbabwe’s reputation as a risky investment destination. He and his partners have said the law was published without their consent.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai participate in a power sharing arrangement that has largely been ignored by Mugabe. To protest Mugabe’s failure to honor the agreement, the European Union on Tuesday extended its economic sanctions on Zimbabwe for another year.

But Meeks had a different take on Mugabe. According to allAfrica.com, Meeks said:

As you know, he is a great man and we look forward to continue working with him until we have a relationship that all of us want to have.

If the prospect of this hustler from Queens being allowed to wade into a sensitive foreign policy situation is enough to make you wonder whether the White House is really aware of Meeks and what he is up to, consider that the White House reportedly sent Meeks in September 2009 to try to convince New York Governor David Paterson not to seek re-election.

On Bloomberg Television, Meeks claimed that the White House “never said, ‘Go tell Gov. Paterson he should step down, he should not run for re-election.'” Instead, Meeks put it this way:

The administration had indicated that they had some troubles, you know, looking at what the solution is and we’re getting close to 2010 and they wanted to make sure that we go into 2010 as strong as possible…

Basically, I was just telling the governor that there were some issues the administration has. And that he needs to try to talk to some folks in the administration to see if they can be resolved.

Meeks then went on to say he would not go into the content of a private conversation. If the White House picked Meeks to deliver the message, because of his ability to be discrete, they got the wrong person. The flavor of all this is, “Hey look at me. I’m Barack Obama’s guy in New York.” With all the embarrassing headlines in the intervening weeks, why hasn’t the White House distanced itself from Meeks?

Of course, Meeks’ problems have so far been mostly a local New York politics story that has morphed into the larger one about the granting of a lucrative gambling franchise to a company called Aqueduct Entertainment Group by Paterson, involving the same cast of characters who set up the charity now being investigated.

It is only a matter of time, however, before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have to start facing questions about Meeks. She is the one who promised to “drain the swamp” of Congressional corruption. With Congress’ approval ratings near an all-time low, it would seem that “zero tolerance” would have to be the only defensible reaction to corruption of the Meeks variety.

But as we have seen in the Charles Rangel case, Pelosi is a prisoner of her own ideology that allows for a racial component to every event. Meeks seems aware of this. According to the New York Daily News on Tuesday:

Rep. Gregory Meeks insists race is playing a role in the criticism being heaped on Aqueduct racino investors the Rev. Floyd Flake and Darryl Greene.

“The only two people who come from the community and the only two people of color are singled out,” Meeks (D-Queens) told the Daily News in a recent interview.

Asked if the controversy over their involvement with Aqueduct Entertainment Group was racially motivated, Meeks replied: “It seems to me if it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck …”

AEG brought in the politically influential Flake, who once held Meeks’ congressional seat, and Greene to act as liaisons to the southeast Queens community.

Meeks said Greene’s detractors were “trying to prevent a local person of color from trying to be part of the process.”

Meeks’ defense of Greene is especially bold, given the fact that Greene pled guilty to, and was convicted of, stealing $500,000 from New York City agencies in 1999. Meeks may think that he can excuse just about anything by playing the race card. It might fly in certain parts of Queens, but it will not fly nationally. And it is on the national stage that Nancy Pelosi operates.

UPDATE 2/22/10:

The New York Post reports this morning:

The promises Congressman Gregory Meeks made to the victims of Hurricane Katrina were broken as badly as the levees, a former official in New Orleans told The Post.

The man chosen by the Queens Democrat to identify needy families displaced by the monster storm said the pledged financial assistance never arrived.

“These people came down here, sold a good story and didn’t deliver,” said Louis Rainey, a former Louisiana Democratic political director who himself lost his home to Katrina.

Meeks’ controversial charity, New Yorkers Organized to Assist Hurricane Families, is now under investigation by federal prosecutors.

According to its own filings, NOAH-F delivered just $1,392 of the roughly $31,000 it raised

“We didn’t get the funds,” Rainey told The Post.

“We never got a dime.”

The appearance that Meeks’ charity had stiffed Katrina victims was first exposed by NLPC.

Rep. Meeks Can’t Account for Hurricane Katrina Money; Puts Spotlight on Paterson/Flake Aqueduct Gambling Deal

Are Corrupt NY Politicians Cashing in on Aqueduct Gambling?

Rep. Gregory Meeks’ Charity Looks More Like Slush Fund