On August 5, the House Ethics Committee announced that it has accepted a recommendation by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) to “further review an allegation that Representative (Gregory) Meeks failed to disclose a payment he received in 2007 in a timely manner.”
The payment was an unsecured $40,000 “loan” from Edul Ahmad, a Guyanese businessman who was last month arrested in a massive mortgage-fraud scheme. On July 22, the FBI reportedly removed Ahmad in handcuffs from a Guyana-bound aircraft on the tarmac at JFK International Airport.
According to a report issued by OCE and released by Ethics Committee, Meeks “refused to cooperate with the OCE investigation.”
Meeks first disclosed the “loan” in June 2010 after the FBI began investigating his finances. In January 2010, we exposed Meeks involvement in a charity called New Direction Local Development Corporation that raised money for Hurricane Katrina victims who never received it, among other questionable dealings. In March, we asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate Meeks for paying $830,000 for a newly built home in 2006 that was worth more than $1.2 million. Media coverage of these events apparently triggered the FBI inquiry, as well the convening of a Grand Jury.
Meeks first disclosed the “loan” in 2010 on his financial disclosure report that all members of Congress were required to file by May 17 for the preceding 2009 calendar year. Meeks filed late on June 15. Click here to download a 5-page pdf of the report. The Ahmad loan was made in 2007, meaning Meeks failed to disclose it at all on his 2007 and 2008 forms. Meeks then filed two letter “amendments,” to his 2010 forms, both dated June 18, but filed separately on June 21 and 23. Both state that “the loan has been repaid in its entirety,” but neither contained any specific loan terms.
Meeks repaid the Ahmad “loan” with funds received from a new loan of $59,650 from Democratic campaign giver Dennis Mehiel, a principal at Four M Investments. OCE also reviewed the new loan but concluded that it did not violate House rules, because unlike the first loan, it was secured by Meeks’ home and required repayment and the payment of interest.
Established in 2008, OCE only has the power to conduct investigations and refer cases to other boards or agencies for further examination. Its board of directors is comprised of eight former members of Congress, making it slightly more independent that the Ethics Committee itself. OCE has come under fire from the Congressional Black Caucus, of which Meeks is a member.
The House Ethics Committee, also known as the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, is comprised of current members of Congress. It has the power to conduct investigations, subpoena witnesses, make official rulings and recommend penalties for lawmakers deemed guilty of ethical violations. Historically ineffective, it seems to be relying more and more on OCE to conduct actual investigations.
True to form, the Meeks announcement was made Friday afternoon in an apparent effort to minimize negative media coverage for Meeks. Click here to download a one-page pdf of the Committee’s announcement. Click here to download an 8-page pdf of Meeks’ response.
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