House Ethics Committee

Republican-controlled House Ethics Committee quietly changes lobbyist-paid travel reporting requirements for lawmakers

The Republican-controlled House Ethics Committee has removed a requirement that lawmakers report trips paid for by lobbyists on their annual financial disclosures, according to National Journal, making it easier for them to hide which special interest groups are paying for them to travel:

The move, made behind closed doors and without a public announcement by the House Ethics Committee, reverses more than three decades of precedent. Gifts of free travel to lawmakers have appeared on the yearly financial form dating back its creation in the late 1970s, after the Watergate scandal. National Journal uncovered the deleted disclosure requirement when analyzing the most recent batch of yearly filings.

“This is such an obvious effort to avoid accountability,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “There’s no legitimate reason. There’s no good reason for it.”

Free trips paid for by private groups must still be reported separately to the House’s Office of the Clerk and disclosed there. But they will now be absent from the chief document that reporters, watchdogs, and members of the public have used for decades to scrutinize lawmakers’ finances.

“The more you can hide, the less accountable you can be,” Sloan said of lawmakers. “It’s clear these forms are useful for reporters and watchdogs, and obviously a little too useful.”

Charlie Rangel found guilty of ethics violations

A day after embarrasing himself in front of the subcommittee hearing his ethics case, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) was found guilty of 11 counts:

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), once one of the most powerful members of the House, was convicted Tuesday on 11 counts of violating ethics rules and now faces punishment.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the adjudicatory subcommittee and the full House ethics committee, announced the decision late Tuesday morning following an abbreviated public trial and nearly six hours of deliberations.

“We have tried to act with fairness, led only by the facts and the law,” Lofgren said. “We believe we have accomplished that mission.”

The full ethics panel will now convene a sanctions hearing to recommend a punishment, which ethics experts say will most likely be a reprimand or formal censure. The ethics committee had yet to announce by Tuesday afternoon when the hearing would occur.

Serious sanctions — including formal reprimand, censure or expulsion — require a vote on the House floor. Expulsion requires a two-thirds vote, while a reprimand, to which Rangel refused to agree in July, or a censure would need only a simple majority. The ethics panel could also impose a fine and deny some of Rangel’s House privileges.

Rangel, who is a lawyer, claimed that he was being treated unfairly because he wasn’t allowed time to find legal counsel, despite being under investigate for two years and charged with these 13 counts since July. So yeah, I’m not buying what he is saying.

Here is video of him playing the victim to the subcommittee on Monday:

Rangel charged with ethics violations

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), who has been the center of an ethics probe, has been charged with multiple violations of House rules:

A House investigative committee on Thursday charged New York Rep. Charles Rangel with multiple ethics violations, a blow to the former Ways and Means chairman and an election-year headache for Democrats.

The committee did not immediately specify the charges against the Democrat, who has served in the House for some 40 years and is fourth in House seniority. The charges by a four-member panel of the House ethics committee sends the case to a House trial, where a separate eight-member panel of Republicans and Democrats will decide whether the violations can be proved by clear and convincing evidence.
[…]
Responding to the charges, Rangel said in a statement, “I was notified today, two years after I requested an investigation, that the Ethics Committee will refer the allegations reviewed by an investigations subcommittee to a subcommittee that will review the facts. I am pleased that, at long last, sunshine will pierce the cloud of serious allegations that have been raised against me in the media.”

There is no reason why Democrats shouldn’t ask Rangel to resign.


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