The ethics committee’s official report admonishing Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), released late last night, concludes that Rangel’s staff knew that two Caribbean junkets were paid for by corporations, in violation of House rules.
In another development, the committee is referring to the Justice Department the matter of three employees of Carib News — which sponsored the trips — who allegedly submitted false information to the committee during pre-travel review for the trips in question.
The panel also admonished its own former counsel, Dawn Kelly Mobley, for “improperly” communicating confidential information to two of the Carib News officials. Read the full statement here.
Republicans have already seized on the finding, reiterating their calls for Rangel to step down from his powerful position at the helm of the Ways and Means Committee.
In a press conference held last night after he attended the White House health care summit, Rangel argued that “common sense dictates that members of Congress should not be held responsible for what could be the wrongdoing or mistakes or errors of staff.”
The ethics panel concluded that only Rangel’s staff, not the congressman himself, knew about the corporate funding of the events. But it found he was “responsible for the knowledge and actions of his staff in the performance of their official duties.”
The two trips in question, to Antigua and Barbuda and St. Maarten in November 2007 and November 2008, were for the Carib News Foundation Multinational Business Conference. A staffer for a conservative watchdog group, the National Legal and Policy Center, attended the 2008 conference and took pictures of signs that prominently featured corporate sponsors such as Pfizer, IBM, and Citi.
But when the trips came up for pre-travel review, the corporate funding was not revealed.
“Although the Committee had approved the Members’ travel, that approval was conditional upon the information provided to the Committee being true and correct,” the ethics panel statement says. “That was not the case.”
Four other Dems who went on the junkets — Reps. Bennie Thompson, Yvette Clarke, Donald Payne, and Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick — were cleared by the ethics panel. The panel found that those four members (and, presumably, their staffs) did not know the trips were sponsored by corporations.
The three Carib News officials who were referred to the DOJ are Karl Rodney, Faye Rodney, and Patricia Louis. Karl Rodney and Louis were the two officials who the ethics panel found received confidential information from the ethics counsel.
The Web site of the Caribbean Multinational Business Conference says that for 12 years the event “has been creating links between the Caribbean, Central America and the U.S. Usually, during four days of workshops, luncheons and dinners, Caribbean Political Heads of State and Ministers of Government, Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Local and Regional Politicians, business persons and influential individuals from the U.S. and the Caribbean discuss, interact and network around issues of mutual concern; relationships are built and business deals are made.”
The ethics committee is still looking into several matters involving Rangel. We looked at his various ethical issues in this post.
Late 3/1/10 Update: The section of this story on Dawn Kelly Mobley has been corrected. She allegedly communicated internal information not during the ethics investigation, as the post originally stated, but during the pre-travel approval process. For more on Mobley’s role, see this post.