GOP plans to keep House ethics office

  • Share
  • Bookmark to Delicious
  • Bookmark to StumbleUpon
  • 1 comment

House Republicans, who take control of the House next month, pledged Thursday to retain a controversial ethics office, post legislation on the Internet prior to votes and require that bills requiring an increase in spending be balanced with cuts elsewhere.

The House Office of Congressional Ethics has irritated several members who were subject to lengthy investigations that criticized their conduct. The office, established by Democrats, is run by a board of people from outside Congress. It has no disciplinary powers, and it can only recommend further investigation by the House-run ethics committee.

Many Republicans originally opposed the office. There could be attempts to weaken the office, but they are now unlikely to pass.

The GOP also will continue a rule that prohibits former members of Congress who are registered lobbyists from using the House gym, where they once could lobby lawmakers.

The rules propose that no legislation receive a House vote until it’s on the Internet for at least three days. In the past, members have complained that major bills came up for votes while few had a chance to read the legislation — or changes inserted at the last minute.

House committees would have a requirement to post online any conflicts of interest with witnesses to appear at hearings. Also to be posted: which members showed up for a committee hearing or business meeting.

Associated Press

  • expose this
  • Share
  • Bookmark to Delicious
  • Bookmark to StumbleUpon
  • 1 comment

“Repeal Amendment” sought to reign in Washington control

  • Share
  • Bookmark to Delicious
  • Bookmark to StumbleUpon
  • Comment on this story

Fueled largely by the controversy over the Obama healthcare measure, a constitutional amendment is being discussed by lawmakers in Washington that would give power to states to nullify federal laws. The so-called “Repeal Amendment” that was first proposed by Randy Barnett, a Georgetown University law professor, is picking up momentum, and according to a story in the New York Times, has support of 12 states and incoming House majority leader Eric Cantor.

Under the proposed amendment, any federal law or regulation could be overturned if two-thirds of states voted to do so.

Passing any constitutional amendment would be difficult however, requiring approval of both chambers of Congress and three-quarters of state legislatures.

Last month Cantor said “Washington has grown far too large and has become far too intrusive, reaching into nearly every aspect of our lives. Massive expenditures like the stimulus, unconstitutional mandates like the takeover of health care and intrusions into the private sector like the auto bailouts have threatened the very core of the American free market. The repeal amendment would provide a check on the ever-expanding federal government, protect against Congressional overreach and get the government working for the people again, not the other way around.”

“This is something state legislatures have an interest in pursuing,” said Barnett, “because it helps them fend off federal encroachment and gives them a seat at the table when Congress is proposing what to do.

Barnett’s proposal was supported by William Howell, the speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates. Howell said the Virginia legislature would consider proposing the amendment when it meets next month in January

A group called RepealAmendment.org says that so far, legislative leaders in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Virginia, were backing the amendment.

Tea party groups are also working to move the amendment proposal forward. Anger at Washington has already ignited discussions about the importance of the 10th Amendment, which gives powers to states not explicitly reserved by the federal government. Both Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney have highlighted the issue.

A constitutional law professor at the University of Texas, Sanford V. Levinson, called the amendment a “real terrible idea” because it gives as much weight to small states as larger, more populous states. “You can bet the ranch that there are enough state legislators in the large states who will not consider it a good idea to reinforce the power of small parochial rural states in which most Americans do not live,” said Levinson.

  • expose this
  • Share
  • Bookmark to Delicious
  • Bookmark to StumbleUpon

70 House members don’t even show for final session

  • Share
  • Bookmark to Delicious
  • Bookmark to StumbleUpon
  • 1 comment

As the lower chamber of Congress wraps up for the year’s final session, over 70 members were AWOL, and didn’t bother to show up to vote. Included on the agenda was a bill on funding the federal government through March and a measure on health benefits for 911 responders.

Many of the politicians that didn’t show up to vote included members that were defeated in November’s elections and those that were retiring. The House voted on seven items, including a short-term spending bill, which was passed, that would avert a government shutdown. Had the House not acted, the government would have theoretically run out of funding on 12:01 am Wednesday.

Those absent also missed voting on a major food safety bill on Tuesday afternoon. That bill also passed.

Members who were defeated in the November elections or in primaries that didn’t show were: Reps. John Adler (D-N.J.), Bobby Bright (D-Ala.), Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.), Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio), Michael McMahon (D-N.Y.), Harry Mitchell (D-Ariz.), Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas), Joseph Cao (R-La.), Parker Griffith (R-Ala.) and Bob Inglis (R-S.C.).

Sixteen retiring members that didn’t show included: Reps. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), Gresham Barrett (R-S.C.), Marion Berry (D-Ark.), Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.), Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Mary Fallin (R-Okla.), Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), Paul Hodes (D-N.H.), Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), Charlie Melancon (D-La.), Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), John Linder (R-Ga.), George Radanovich (R-Calif.) and John Tanner (D-Tenn.).

Forty six returning lawmakers didn’t show, including 24 Democrats and 22 Republicans. Whether they were Christmas shopping or off to Aspen is unknown.

  • expose this
  • Share
  • Bookmark to Delicious
  • Bookmark to StumbleUpon
  • 1 comment

Rangel officially gets censured, back to business as usual

  • Share
  • Bookmark to Delicious
  • Bookmark to StumbleUpon
  • Comment on this story

Charles Rangel has now become the 23rd member of the U.S. House of Representatives in the nation’s history to be censured for misconduct.

The vote by the full House on Thursday was 333-79, and punished him by censure for failing to pay income taxes on a rental property, using his office to raise monies for a college center named in his honor, and accepting a rent-subsidized apartment in Manhattan from a developer who had official business with a committee led by the congressman.

The vote was expected in the matter, which consumed $2 million in legal costs and two years of his attention, and was recommended by a special panel in a trial two weeks ago that Rangel walked out on after asking for a delay so that he could raise more money for a legal defense fund.

Aside from the public reprimand, Rangel has evaded being charged with any crime for his wrongdoings. “I am at rest with myself, and I am convinced that when history of this has been written that people will recognize that the vote for censure was a very, very, very political vote,” Rangel said.

The Associated Press

  • expose this
  • Share
  • Bookmark to Delicious
  • Bookmark to StumbleUpon

Former House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay convicted on money laundering charges

  • Share
  • Bookmark to Delicious
  • Bookmark to StumbleUpon
  • Comment on this story

Former House Majority Leader Tom Delay answers media questions during a break in jury selection

Former U.S. House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, once one of the most powerful Republicans in Congress, was convicted today of illegally funneling campaign contributions to fellow Texas politicians in 2002.

After 19 hours of deliberation, the jury returned with guilty verdicts against DeLay on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He faces a sentence of up to life in prison, although there would be a possibility of parole. DeLay will remain free until Dec. 20 when he is sentenced.

At the center of the charges was whether DeLay violated campaign contribution laws for his part in a single transaction involving a campaign money swap. A political action committee he founded, Texans for a Republican Majority, sent a $190,000 contribution to the Republican National Committee, which in turn, according to prosecutors, used the monies to help fund the 2002 campaigns of seven Texas Republican candidates supported by DeLay.

Under Texas state rules, corporate political donations to candidates are prohibited. Prosecutors said that corporate donations to the PAC were “laundered” by virtue of a special arrangement with the RNC in Washington. They claimed that the monies from the PAC were corporate funds, but funneled through the RNC to skirt campaign finance laws.

Travis County prosecutor Beverly Mathews charged that the exchange of monies ultimately had a much larger role in state and national politics. The monies helped get more Republicans elected to the Texas House, which allowed the GOP to push through a redistricting plan so that more Republicans could get elected to Congress, further cementing DeLay’s leadership position.

DeLay had been under investigation for years, and his political career had been badly damaged by his association with Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, causing him to resign in 2006.  The lobbyist, a close friend of DeLay’s, was convicted on charges of tax evasion, mail fraud and conspiracy.

In August, federal officials notified DeLay that he would not be indicted in the Abramoff scandal, although their six year investigation yielded guilty pleas from Delay’s former chief of staff and one of his aides.

Delay has maintained a low profile in the Houston area as a Republican political consultant, although for a brief period, competed on the television show, Dancing with the Stars.

The Washington Post

  • expose this
  • Share
  • Bookmark to Delicious
  • Bookmark to StumbleUpon

Rangel Found Guilty of 11 Ethics Violations

  • Share
  • Bookmark to Delicious
  • Bookmark to StumbleUpon
  • Comment on this story

A House panel found Rep. Charles B. Range (D-N.Y.) guilty on 11 counts of ethics violations, including failing to pay income taxes on a house he owned in the Dominican Republic, using his congressional office to raise monies for a college center named in his honor, and accepting a rent-subsidized apartment in Manhattan from a developer who had official business with a committee led by the congressman.

The quick decision comes only a day after the trial began which was marked by Rangel’s absence, due to a falling out with his attorneys over his mounting legal costs. Rangel asked for a delay in the case so that he could put together a legal defense fund, but panel members moved ahead.

The matter now moves to the House ethics committee for action. It is expected that Rangel will receive a public reprimand. The 80-year-old Rangel was just reelected for another term, and has been a House member since 1971. In 2007 he became the chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, a position from which he has since resigned.

  • expose this
  • Share
  • Bookmark to Delicious
  • Bookmark to StumbleUpon

Rangel Walks Out On Own Corruption Hearing

  • Share
  • Bookmark to Delicious
  • Bookmark to StumbleUpon
  • Comment on this story

Rangel and Lawyers Split, and So Did He

After pleading with a House panel to delay his long-awaited trial on corruption charges, Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) abruptly left the proceedings after he told the House ethics committee that he needed more time to raise monies for his legal defense, since his legal reps quit last month.

Rangel’s troubles began in 2008 amid reports that he failed to file reports on assets, failed to pay income taxes on rental property, violated rent-control laws on his housing in New York, and used his congressional office to raise funds for a college building named in his honor. The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct charged him in July with 13 counts of ethics violations.

The trial was the first of its kind since 2002. The committee conducted a 21- month investigation including the interview of at least 50 witnesses. The last time the committee had independently investigated charges and held hearings on lawmaker misconduct was in 1987, making the current proceedings a high-profile event.

Rangel and his law firm, Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, parted ways in October during the final preparation work for the trail. The lawyers had already been paid $1.4 million but reportedly quit when advised that Rangel had depleted his campaign accounts and was not prepared to use to personal assets to pay for his defense.

As a member of Congress, Rangel could not accept pro bono defense work from a law firm, since it would be considered a gift, which would be illegal. Rangel asked the committee for more time so that he could launch a legal defense campaign, but the committee decided that it had already been delayed enough.

Since Rangel will not be presenting a defense to the charges, a verdict from the committee is likely to be forthcoming quickly. If he is found guilty, observers say the harshest punishment may only be a public reprimand. While some critics have asked for Rangel’s resignation from Congress, he has already issued a statement the he will refuse to resign.

Wall Street Journal

  • expose this
  • Share
  • Bookmark to Delicious
  • Bookmark to StumbleUpon