Rangel Junket Organizer Pleads Guilty

Rangel photoKarl Rodney, the organizer of the Caribbean junkets that were the downfall of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), has pled guilty to lying to Congress. During the Justice Department investigation, NLPC received a Grand Jury subpoena to provide photographs, audio recordings, and other materials from a November 2008 conference in St. Maarten.

I attended the event and documented the corporate sponsorship that violated House Rules, by companies like Citigroup, AT&T and Pfizer. It was this evidence on which the House Ethics Committee admonished Rangel in February 2010, prompting his resignation from the Ways and Means chairmanship.

Rodney, the publisher of a New York-based newspaper called Carib News, admitted lying to the House Ethics Committee about the source of funds for conferences in the Caribbean during 2007 and 2008. Although he faced up to five years in prison, the plea deal calls for a sentence of from zero to six months.

House travel rules prohibit members of Congress from accepting travel on multi-day trips from corporations that employ federal lobbyists, either directly or indirectly through third-party groups like the Carib News. On a certification form prior to the trips, Rodney check the “no” box when asked, and identified Carib News as the sole sponsor in follow-up communications with the Ethics Committee.

House Rules on travel were tightened at the behest of Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the wake of the Jack Abramoff golf trip to Scotland.

Rodney’s legal representation included radical Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree, best known for his advocacy of slave reparations.

The Rodney case was referred to the Justice Department for prosecution when it admonished Rangel in February 2010. The Committee also referred Karl’s wife Faye Rodney for prosecution, but she was not charged, reportedly as part of the plea deal with Karl. It was Faye Rodney who tried to prevent me from attending the St. Maarten event after organizers realized that I represented a watchdog group. I was detained by the Police Korps of St. Maarten, and subjected to numerous questions, such as my hotel room number, and the names and birthdates of my children.

Although it appears he is getting off on the light side, I wonder about the justice in going after a bit player like Rodney while Rangel is apparently not facing criminal prosecution. After all, Rangel admitted to not paying taxes. Moreover, Rangel admitted to failing to disclose hundreds of thousands in income and assets on his financial disclosure forms, in effect making false statements that greatly exceed the scope of Rodney’s.

Is the Public Integrity section of the Justice Department really going to crow about the Rodney plea deal after dropping investigations of a parade of members of Congress including Alan Mollohan, Jerry Lewis, the late Ted Stevens, and Don Young?

And lets not forget the PMA gang that includes the late John Murtha, James Moran,  Peter Visclosky, Norm Dicks, Marcy Kaptur and Bill Young. The Justice Department argued that its conviction of underling Paul Magliocchetti last September was evidence that it hasn’t backed down from high-profile cases. Formerly an aide to Murtha, Magliocchetti later headed up the now-defunct PMA Group, which was discovered to be funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions lawmakers. But the department has yet to prosecute the members of Congress who allegedly obtained earmarks for PMA Group clients in return for campaign contributions.


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