The House ethics committee will likely clear five Democratic members of Congress including Charlie Rangel (D-NY) of wrongdoing in an investigation into whether a privately financed trip to the Caribbean broke House travel rules, Roll Call reports this morning.
The case, which involves a trip the members took on the dime of the Carib News Foundation, is perhaps the flimsiest in the slew of ethics charges against Rangel.
The four members of the Congressional Black Caucus who will reportedly be cleared along with Rangel are: Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-MI), Donald Payne (D-NJ), and Del. Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands).
Roll Call also poked around on another angle in the case — a burgeoning intermural feud between the House ethics panel and the new Office of Congressional Ethics, which was created in early 2008 but whose work didn’t get underway until earlier this year. The paper reports:
Sources familiar with the investigation say the ethics committee — formally known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct — has raised concerns that OCE misinterpreted the responsibility of Members of Congress in accepting free travel from nonprofit groups, failed to provide the accused Members with evidence that would have been helpful in their defense and missed its own dead- lines for processing the complaint.
The objections are similar to those that the ethics committee raised in dismissing a case last week against Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and would indicate a deep rift between the two bodies tasked with overseeing Congressional ethics. OCE leadership disputed Standards’ criticism of its handling of the Graves case, saying the panel “mischaracterized” the OCE’s work.
As in the Graves matter, sources suggested that Standards will release the investigative report assembled by the OCE — which suggests possible improper conduct by the Members — surrounded by a critique explaining why the ethics committee disagrees with the OCE’s conclusions and procedures.
OCE is co-chaired by former Colorado Dem congressman David Skaggs and former congressman and Bush CIA chief Porter Goss.
The Carib News case was sparked by the complaint of a conservative group called the National Legal and Policy Center, which attended the 2008 event and gathered evidence purportedly showing the trip violated House rules.