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Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a left-leaning watchdog group, has released its annual report on the most corrupt members of Congress.
“With the economy in a free-fall, unemployment rates at record highs and health care solutions still nowhere in sight, members should be spending their time looking for answers to the nation’s problems, not finding new ways to enrich themselves,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW.
The following pages contain excerpts of the full report, courtesy of CREW.
title=”Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL)”
content=”Representative Vern Buchanan (R-FL) is a two-term member of Congress representing Florida’s 13th district. His ethics issues stem from pressuring his employees to make contributions to his campaign committee and improper use of corporate resources for campaign purposes. Rep. Buchanan was included in CREW’s 2008 report on congressional corruption.
Rep. Buchanan owns several car dealerships in Florida and after he began his congressional campaign in 2005, in one seven-day period, he raised $110,000 from employees of his numerous car dealerships. Several employees have since alleged that Rep. Buchanan pressured them to make contributions to his campaign committee.
According to the sworn affidavits of Carlo A. Bell and David J. Padilla, employees of Rep. Buchanan’s automobile dealerships, including employees of Venice Nissan Dodge and Sarasota Ford, were either reimbursed with corporate funds for making $1,000 contributions to Rep. Buchanan’s 2006 congressional campaign, or were coerced into making contributions.
Joe Kezer, an employee of Sarasota Ford, also alleges that he was pressured to make a contribution and that as a further reward, Rep. Buchanan offered him the use of his vacation house in Vail, Colorado. Aware that it might not be legal, but fearing for his job, Mr. Kezer made a contribution of $2,000 to Rep. Buchanan’s campaign committee.
Terry Keith Howell, a registered Democrat, claims he too was reimbursed for donations he had made to Rep. Buchanan. According to a deposition he gave in a lawsuit, Mr. Howell claimed the $8,800 contribution he made to Rep. Buchanan and the $10,000 he gave to the Republican Party of Florida were paid by his business partner, Timothy Mobley, “a Tampa developer whose relatives and employees were the single largest group of contributors to Buchanan.”
The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) prohibits corporations from making threats of reprisal to force employees to make political contributions.
Additionally, FECA prohibits making a contribution in the name of a person other than the true source of the contribution.
CREW has a pending FEC complaint against Rep. Buchanan.
Another former employee, Richard Thomas, who was the director of fixed operations for one of Rep. Buchanan’s dealerships, claims that Rep. Buchanan repeatedly used dealership cars for campaign purposes. Mr. Thomas has alleged that vehicles were taken out of inventory for use by the campaign and when returned, would frequently contain campaign materials such as literature and posters, which would be cleaned out, and the cars detailed by dealership staff before the cars were made available to customers. The dealership may not have been paid fair market value for the use of the vehicles. Rep. Buchanan also stored campaign materials at the dealership.
Using corporate vehicles for campaign purposes without paying fair market value may violate federal elections law.
DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT ON REP. VERN BUCHANAN (R-FL) >>“
title=”Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL)”
content=”Senator Roland Burris (D-IL) is a first-term senator from Illinois, appointed to the U.S. Senate in December 2008 by former Governor Rod Blagojevich to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of then President-elect Barack Obama. Sen. Burris’ ethics issues stem from the circumstances surrounding his appointment.
Conflicting Statements on Senate Appointment
On December 9, 2008, former Gov. Blagojevich was arrested by federal agents for what was described at the time as a “political corruption crime spree.” One of the central allegations against the governor was that he attempted to sell an appointment to the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Obama.
Sen. Burris was elevated to the Senate seat by the governor on December 30, 2008. When questions were raised about the appointment, Sen. Burris proclaimed, “I don’t have any taint from Gov. Blagojevich.” Over the next several months, Sen. Burris offered at least three different explanations under oath of how he came to be appointed to the Senate.
The Senate Ethics Committee launched an investigation into Sen. Burris on February 17, 2009, for repeatedly altering his statements regarding his appointment to the Senate and his contacts with Gov. Blagojevich and the governor’s associates.
On May 26, 2009, transcripts of a conversation between Sen. Burris and the former governor’s brother Rob Blagojevich, captured on a federal wiretap related to the corruption probe of Gov. Blagojevich, were released. In the transcripts, Sen. Burris mentioned his interest in the Senate seat and potentially raising money for the governor. Sen. Burris offered to “give him [Gov. Blagojevich] a check” and “do something at the [Burris’] law firm.” Later in the conversation he pledged to “personally do something.” Sen. Burris also discussed having his attorney make a donation — potentially in violation of Illinois elections law — but the attorney later advised against it.
In the first half of 2009, Sen. Burris did not report paying legal fees. His campaign reported raising $41,230, but carried $138,085 in debt. On April 9, 2009, Sen. Burris revealed that he had “rung up” $500,000 in legal expenses resulting from the investigation into his ties with the indicted governor. According to a spokesperson, Sen. Burris began setting up a legal defence fund, but is awaiting Senate approval.
Although a prosecutor found insufficient evidence to file state charges against Sen. Burris for perjury, federal perjury charges may still lie. Under federal law, anyone who takes an oath that he will testify, declare or offer written testimony that he subscribes to be true, but deliberately offers untrue statements about a material matter, is guilty of perjury.
DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT ON SEN. ROLAND BURRIS (D-IL) >>“
title=”Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA)”
content=”Representative Ken Calvert (R-CA) is a nine-term member of Congress, representing California’s 44th congressional district. Rep. Calvert’s ethics issues stem from (1) his use of earmarks for personal gain; (2) his illegal land purchase; and, (3) his connections to a lobbying firm under investigation. Rep. Calvert was included in CREW’s 2006, 2007, and 2008 reports on congressional corruption.
Earmarking for Personal Financial Benefit
In 2005, Rep. Calvert and his real estate partner, Woodrow Harpole, Jr., paid $550,000 for a four acre piece of land at Martin Street and Seaton Avenue in Perris, just 4 miles south of the March Air Reserve Base in California. Less than a year after buying the land, without making any improvements to the parcel, they sold the property for $985,000, a 79% increase. During this period, Rep. Calvert pushed through an earmark to secure $8 million for an overhaul and expansion of a freeway interchange 16 miles from the property, as well as an additional $1.5 million for commercial development in the area around the airfield.
In another deal, a group of investors bought property a few blocks from the site of the proposed interchange, for $975,000. Within six months after the earmark for the interchange was appropriated, the parcel of land sold for $1.45 million. Rep. Calvert’s firm received a commission on the sale.
By using his position to earmark funds to increase the value of his own property, Rep. Calvert violated the prohibition against using his position as a member of Congress to advance his own financial interests and engaged in conduct that does not reflect creditably on the House.
Relationship with Lobbying Firm
The former lobbying firm of Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White (“Copeland Lowery”) is currently under investigation by a federal grand jury for its ties to Appropriations Committee ranking member Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA). On May 23, 2006, as part of its investigation into Rep. Lewis’ ties to Mr. Lowery, the FBI obtained Rep. Calvert’s financial records at the same time that it pulled Rep. Lewis’s financial records. Rep. Calvert helped pass through at least 13 earmarks sought by Copeland Lowery in 2005, adding up to over $91 million.
Rep. Calvert may have violated federal law and House rules by accepting campaign contributions from Copeland Lowery clients in exchange for earmarks.
A grand jury in Riverside County, California has examined the 2006 land sale by the Jurupa Community Services District to Rep. Calvert and his business partners and concluded the sale was illegal because the district failed to first offer the land to other public agencies.
In August 2008, the Jurupa Area Recreation and Park District (JARPD) filed a lawsuit against the Jurupa Community Services District for fraud and deceit for selling the property to Rep. Calvert and his partners.
On June 16, 2009, the Riverside County supervisors voted 3-1 to approve a zoning change to Rep. Calvert’s property, reclassifying it from agricultural to commercial property. The change will allow Rep. Calvert and his business partner, Stadium Properties, to build a storage facility that will likely increase the value of the property. Despite the increase in land value, JARPD continues to hope to be able to purchase the property from Stadium Properties, but it is unclear if Stadium Properties will sell the land. Rep. Calvert describes himself as a “passive one-third partner” in the land partnership.
DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT ON REP. KEN CALVERT (R-CA) >>“
title=”Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA)”
content=”Representative Nathan Deal (R-GA) is a nine-term member of Congress, representing Georgia’s 9th congressional district. His ethics violations stem from his abuse of his position for his personal financial benefit.
Recovery Services, Inc. a/k/a Gainesville Salvage & Disposal
Rep. Deal, along with his business partner Ken Cronan, owns a lucrative business, Recovery Services, Inc., that — through a no-bid contract — provides inspection stations to the state for the inspection of salvaged vehicles. The business earned $1.4 million between 2004-2008 and Rep. Deal personally took home $150,000 a year.
In 2008, Georgia Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham took over responsibility for the inspection system and found the operational costs and locations of the inspection stations to be too costly and restrictive. Comm. Graham decided the best course of action was to reform the system and award contracts through a competitive bidding process.
Rep. Deal and his staff, with assistance from Georgia Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, arranged meetings with Comm. Graham at which Rep. Deal and his chief of staff were present, to persuade him to reconsider his decisions, including the proposed elimination of $1.7 million that has been allocated for the program. After Comm. Graham’s plan was passed by the Georgia House, Rep. Deal’s chief of staff used his House email to contact Georgia state officials in an effort to stop the plan from passing the state Senate. The money for the program was eventually kept in the budget.
Rep. Deal’s abuse of his position and taxpayer resources to maintain a personally lucrative business deal does not reflect creditably on the House.
DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT ON REP. NATHAN DEAL (R-GA) >>“
title=”Sen. John Ensign (R-NV)”
content=”Senator John Ensign (R-NV) is a two-term senator from Nevada. His ethics issues stem from an extramarital affair with a former campaign staffer.
Affair with Campaign Committee Staffer
On June 16, 2009, Senator John Ensign announced he had engaged in an extramarital affair with an unnamed former campaign staffer from December 2007 until August 2008. The staffer was later identified as Cynthia Hampton, whose husband Doug Hampton, was a close friend and top aide to the senator.
In a letter to FOX News anchor Megyn Kelly, Mr. Hampton stated that although the two families had been “lifelong friends,” Sen. Ensign pursued and engaged in a relationship with Mr. Hampton’s wife. He said Sen. Ensign’s “conduct and relentless pursuit of my wife led to our dismissal in April 2008.” Mr. Hampton further stated that because of Sen. Ensign’s conduct, Mr. Hampton’s family “lost significant income, suffered indescribable pain and emotional suffering. We find ourselves today with an overwhelming loss of relationships, career opportunities and hope for recovery.”
Cynthia Hampton was paid $1,885 a month, working for both Sen. Ensign’s campaign and his leadership political action committee, Battle Born PAC. In January 2008, a month after their affair began, Ms. Hampton’s salary doubled after she took on increased responsibilities with the re-election committee and took over as treasurer for the PAC. An individual close to Sen. Ensign’s family said that after the senator confessed the affair to his wife, reconciled with her and attended counseling, he fired Ms. Hampton, providing her with a severance payment paid from his own pocket.
Both Doug and Cynthia Hampton received payments from Sen. Ensign after leaving his employ. After his departure, Mr. Hampton received $6,000, an amount Sen. Ensign’s office claimed was “equal to 12 days of unused vacation,” and was not a severance package, an understanding confirmed by Mr. Hampton.
On July 8, 2009, Mr. Hampton said Sen. Ensign had personally paid Ms. Hampton over $25,000 in severance. Sen. Ensign’s attorney, Paul Coggins, quickly contradicted that claim, stating Sen. Ensign’s parents paid Ms. Hampton and her family $96,000 after they had learned of the affair. Mr. Coggins insisted the payments were not made from campaign or official funds, nor were they related to any campaign or official duties. Rather, he explained, the April 2008 payments were “gifts made out of concern for the well-being of long-time family friends during a difficult time.” Each of Sen. Ensign’s parents made out four checks in the amount of $12,000 to Cynthia Hampton, her husband and two of their children. Sen. Ensign’s office claimed the alleged $25,000 severance payment was part of his parents’ $96,000 “gift.”
Additionally, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which Sen. Ensign chaired, paid the Hamptons’ 19-year-old son $1,000 a month from March through August 2008 for his work as an intern.
Sen. Ensign originally indicated he went public because he was being extorted. He later admitted, however, that he went public because he had learned Mr. Hampton had written to FOX News with details of the affair, asking the network to investigate the matter and downgraded the alleged extortion to a legal demand.
If, as it appears, Mr. and Ms. Hampton were discharged directly because of Ms. Hampton’s affair with the senator, Sen. Ensign may have engaged in discrimination on the basis of sex in violation of Senate Rules. Additionally, the payments to the Hamptons may have been an unreported, illegal, excessive in-kind contribution to Ensign for Senate and Battle Born PAC in violation of campaign finance law.
DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT ON SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R-NV) >>“
title=”Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL)”
content=”Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr., is an eight-term member of Congress, representing Illinois’ 2nd district. Rep. Jackson’s ethics issue stems from his bid to be appointed to a vacant Illinois Senate seat and subsequently, the federal investigation of former-Governor Rod Blagojevich.
Vacant Senate Seat
On December 9, 2008, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested by federal agents for what was described at the time as a “political corruption crime spree.” One of the central allegations against the governor was that he attempted to sell an appointment to the Senate seat vacated by then President-elect Obama.
In the affidavit supporting the arrest of Gov. Blagojevich, the governor is quoted stating he believed a particular candidate, later identified as Rep. Jackson, would “raise money” for him and that “he might get some [money] upfront.” The governor also claimed an “emissary” from Rep. Jackson came to him and offered to raise a total of $1.5 million for his campaign should Rep. Jackson indeed be appointed to the vacant Senate seat. In fact, the day before the governor’s arrest, Rep. Jackson met with him to discuss the vacancy.
The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) launched a “preliminary review of Rep. Jackson’s actions surrounding his bid for appointment to the Senate seat.” OCE asked Gov. Blagojevich’s former staffers and campaign aides to turn over correspondence between Rep. Jackson and the governor. Additionally, the Department of Justice has interviewed Rep. Jackson and subpoenaed individuals with knowledge of Rep. Jackson’s alleged effort to raise funds for Gov. Blagojevich. If Rep. Jackson offered then-Gov. Blagojevich anything of value, including campaign contributions, in exchange for an appointment to the vacant U.S. Senate seat, Rep. Jackson may have violated Illinois bribery law.
Rep. Jackson has denied any wrongdoing and says he is cooperating with both investigations. In the first half of 2009, his campaign committee paid $18,697 in legal fees in addition to $100,000 paid in December 2008.
DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT ON REP. JESSE JACKSON, JR. (D-IL) >>“
title=”Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA)”
content=”Representative Jerry Lewis (R-CA) is a sixteen-term member of Congress, representing the 41st district of California. Currently the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, his ethics issues stem primarily from the misuse of his position as chairman of the committee to steer hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks to family and friends in direct exchange for contributions to his campaign committee and political action committee. Rep. Lewis was included in CREW’s 2006, 2007, and 2008 reports on congressional corruption.
Relationship with Bill Lowery and Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White
Rep. Lewis has a close relationship with lobbyist and former Congressman Bill Lowery, and his lobbying firm, formerly known as Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White (“Copeland Lowery”). As then-chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Lewis approved hundreds of millions of dollars in federal projects for Mr. Lowery’s clients. In exchange, Mr. Lowery, his partners and their spouses contributed $480,000 to Rep. Lewis’ campaign committee and Future Leaders PAC between 2000 and 2005, often giving the maximum contribution allowed under law.
Federal officials had been investigating lobbyists Letitia White and Jeffrey Shockey and the cozy relationship between Rep. Lewis and Copeland Lowery, now known as Innovative Federal Strategies (IFS).
Despite the continued scrutiny of his earmarking activities, Rep. Lewis has continued to request earmarks for Mr. Copeland and Ms. White’s clients at IFS. In 2008, Rep. Lewis sponsored $55 million in earmarks for IFS clients. In 2009, he requested more than $218 million in earmarks, nearly half of which — $102 million — was designated for projects of IFS clients.
Brent Wilkes Investigation
Rep. Lewis is also under investigation because of his dealings with Brent Wilkes, the same contractor who went to jail for bribing former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA). After Rep. Cunningham pleaded guilty, Rep. Lewis resisted an independent investigation of Rep. Cunningham’s activities on the Appropriations Committee, stating that his own personal informal review of Rep. Cunningham’s earmarks was satisfactory and that the earmarks Rep. Cunningham doled out were legitimate.
In total, Rep. Lewis has received $88,252 from Mr. Wilkes and his associates, making him the third-highest recipient of campaign contributions from Mr. Wilkes, after former Reps. Cunningham and John Doolittle (R-CA).
Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc. (ESRI)
In 2007, Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc. (ESRI), a former client of Rep. Lewis’ deputy staff director Jeffrey Shockey, was awarded a federal contract worth over $55 million. In 2008, ESRI received contracts worth over $4 million dollars and the company’s founders, Mr. and Mrs. Dangermond donated $7,200 to Rep. Lewis’ campaign in 2008. In 2009, Rep. Lewis requested $12 million in earmarks for ESRI.
Since the release of CREW’s 2008 Most Corrupt report, Rep. Lewis has paid $68,000 in legal fees from his campaign account.
By trading campaign contributions for earmarks, Rep. Lewis may have committed bribery and honest services fraud and violated House rules.
DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT ON REP. JERRY LEWIS (R-CA) >>“
title=”Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)”
content=”Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is a five-term senator from Kentucky. He is the minority leader in the 111th Congress and sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Sen. McConnell’s ethics issues stem primarily from (1) earmarks he inserted into legislation for clients of his former chief of staff in exchange for campaign contributions and (2) the misuse of his nonprofit McConnell centre for Political Leadership at the University of Louisville. Sen. McConnell was included in CREW’s 2007 and 2008 congressional corruption reports.
Gordon Hunter Bates and the Bates Capitol Group LLC
Gordon Hunter Bates served as Sen. McConnell’s chief legal counsel and then chief of staff from 1997 to 2002. After a 2003 lawsuit ended his bid for Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky, he opened a lobbying firm, Bates Capitol Group, LLC (Bates Capitol). Bates Capitol clients include: E-Cavern, Voice for Humanity, Appriss, Inc. and Boardpoint, LLC, all of which have received earmarks thanks to Sen. McConnell. In addition, the senator rewrote legislation to help another Bates Capitol client, UPS Inc. All of these companies have made substantial contributions to Sen. McConnell’s campaigns.
According to lobbying disclosures, Mr. Bates joined the C2 Group, LLC, as a lobbyist beginning in September 2007. Mr. Bates brought at least two of his former clients to his new firm, Appriss, Inc., and Boardpoint. As of July 2009, Mr. Bates had donated $2,700 to Sen. McConnell’s PAC for the year. Federal Elections Commission records do not indicate that employees of Appriss or Boardpoint made contributions to Sen. McConnell’s campaign committee or PAC in this cycle.
The McConnell centre for Political Leadership
The McConnell centre for Political Leadership was founded by Sen. McConnell in 1991 as a non-profit organisation for which the senator raises funds. The University of Louisville Foundation was sued by the Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky because the centre insisted on maintaining the anonymity of its donors. Two of the largest donors to the McConnell centre are Ashland Inc. and UPS, which have donated $500,000 and $400,000 respectively. Some donations to the McConnell centre have been delivered to Sen. McConnell’s Capitol Hill office.
In a lawsuit brought by the Courier-Journal for records of donations made to the McConnell centre, the Kentucky Supreme court ruled in August 2008 that the University of Louisville could not withhold information about donors from public records requests. The court agreed with the newspaper that “certain donors may not simply wish to conceal their identities, but rather may wish to conceal the true purposes of their donations.” Though the court ruled that the identities of 62 donors who requested their donations be anonymous need not be revealed, the court held that future donors would not be permitted to make anonymous donations.
Since winning its lawsuit, the Courier-Journal has begun maintaining an online database of all donations made to the University of Louiseville Foundation, which manages all donations made to the school, including those made to the McConnell centre. Funding for the McConnell centre has dropped precipitously, according to the database it has only received $31,125 in contributions since 2004.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has an ongoing investigation into British defence contractor, BAE Systems, concerning allegations that the company bribed members of the Saudi Royal family, including the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, in support of an arms-for-oil barter.
The United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which was also investigating BAE over those same allegations of bribery, dropped the investigation when ordered to do so by then Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2006, amid concerns that it would tread too close to members of the Saudi Royal family and endanger national security. Approximately half of BAE’s business is now done with the United States government, but the decision of the SFO to drop its investigation into the company has hampered the DOJ probe. The United States government lodged two official diplomatic protests over the scuttling of the SFO’s investigation.
The Austrian government, is expected, however, to bring charges in connection with its investigation of BAE. That investigation concerns the action of an Austrian aristocrat who secretly worked for the defence contractor and made “aggressive incentive payments to key decision-makers.”
For fiscal year 2010, Sen. McConnell requested three earmarks for BAE worth a combined $17 million dollars. The requests are for various gun assemblies manufactured by BAE at its Louisville, Kentucky facility. Since the third quarter of 2008, employees of BAE Systems have donated $3,400 to Sen. McConnell’s campaign committee.
DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT ON SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY) >>“
title=”Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-WV)”
content=”Representative Alan B. Mollohan (D-WV) is a fourteen-term member of Congress, representing West Virginia’s 1st congressional district. He serves on the House Appropriations Committee, where he is chair of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies; he is also a member of the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies and the Subcommittee on Homeland Security.
Rep. Mollohan’s ethics issues stem primarily from misuse of his position on the Appropriations Committee, from which he has steered hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks to family, friends, former employees and corporations in exchange for contributions to his campaign and political action committees. In addition, Rep. Mollohan misreported his personal assets on his financial disclosure forms. He is currently the subject of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. The congressman was included in CREW’s 2006, 2007, and 2008 reports on congressional corruption.
Earmarking of Funds for His Personal Benefit
Over the past 10 plus years, Rep. Mollohan has earmarked $369 million in federal grants to his district for 254 separate programs. Between 1997 and 2006, $250 million of that total was directed to five nonprofit organisations that were created by Rep. Mollohan and staffed by his friends. During the same period, top-paid employees, board members and contractors of these organisations gave at least $397,122 to Rep. Mollohan’s campaign and political action committees.
If Rep. Mollohan accepted campaign donations in direct exchange for earmarking federal funds to the nonprofits run by these donors he may have committed bribery and honest services fraud in violation House rules prohibiting dispensing special favours and engaging in conduct that does not reflect creditably on the House.
In June 2004, Rep. Mollohan, his wife, and two top aides took a five-day trip to Bilbao, Spain. The trip, arranged by the West Virginia High Technology Consortium and costing over $36,000 ($7,800 of which constituted the Mollohans’ expenses), was paid for by a group of government contractors to whom Rep. Mollohan funneled more than $250 million in earmarked funds. By soliciting funding for his trip to Spain from TMC Technologies one month after TMC received a $5 million contract as a result of an earmark from him, Rep. Mollohan appears to be in violation of the illegal gratuity statute as well as House travel rules.
Rep. Mollohan continues to maintain a close relationship with several companies that either have office space in the complex run by a non-profit sponsored by the congressman or are clients of Robison International, a lobbying firm that has been a major campaign supporter.
Also, Rep. Mollohan’s family foundation has received free rent and administrative services from a Mollohan backed non-profit while it accepted donations from companies supported by the congressman through earmarks.
Financial Disclosure Forms
Between 2000 and 2004, Rep. Mollohan went from owning assets of less than $500,000, generating less than $80,000 in income in 2000, to at least $6.3 million in assets earning $200,000 to $1.2 million in 2004. As of 2005, Rep. Mollohan’s reported personal assets were worth at least $8 million and his liabilities were in excess of $3.43 million. In June 2006, Rep. Mollohan was forced to file two dozen corrections to his past six financial disclosure forms. If Rep. Mollohan knowingly filed inaccurate financial disclosure statements he broke the law prohibiting false statements.
Department of Justice Investigation
Because of the pending Department of Justice (DOJ) criminal investigation, in January 2007, when Rep. Mollohan was named as the chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State and Related Agencies, he recused himself from working on matters related to the DOJ’s budget. The FBI has subpoenaed financial records from the non-profit organisations that have benefitted from federal funding steered to them by Rep. Mollohan. In addition, at least one witness has been subpoenaed to testify about Rep. Mollohan’s finances before a grand jury. Despite legal questions surrounding some of Rep. Mollohan’s previous earmarks, Rep. Mollohan requested a $1 million earmark to allow the Department of the Interior to expand a wilderness area abutting property owned by the congressman, thereby increasing his property’s value.
Rep. Mollohan spent over $157,000 on legal fees and services in the 2008 election cycle. Despite the ongoing investigation, Rep. Mollohan did not recuse himself from working on the 2010 Commerce, Science and Justice appropriations bill.
DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT ON REP. ALAN B. MOLLOHAN (D-WV) >>“
title=”Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA)”
content=”Representative John P. Murtha (D-PA) is a nineteen-term member of Congress, representing Pennsylvania’s 12th congressional district. Rep. Murtha chairs the defence Appropriations Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. Rep. Murtha’s ethics issues and violations stem from (1) his ties to the PMA Group, a now defunct lobbying firm under federal investigation; (2) his ties to Kuchera Industries, a defence contractor under federal investigation; (3) his ties to defence executives and former military personnel convicted of skimming money from government contracts; (4) actions he may have taken to benefit his brother’s lobbying clients; and (5) his chief of staff’s threats to a political opponent. Rep. Murtha was included in CREW’s 2006, 2007, and 2008 reports on congressional corruption.
PMA Group Investigation
Paul Magliocchetti worked with Rep. Murtha as a senior staffer on the Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on defence for 10 years. After leaving the committee, Mr. Magliocchetti founded the PMA Group, which was one of the most prominent Washington, D.C. defence lobbying firms. In November 2008, federal authorities raided the offices of the PMA Group and the home of Mr. Magliocchetti. The PMA Group is being investigated for allegedly violating campaign finance laws by using “straw” donors to make contributions to lawmakers, concealing the true source of the money. In some cases, lawmakers received contributions from individuals listed as PMA lobbyists despite the fact that the individuals were never employees of the firm. Additionally, Mr. Magliocchetti may have reimbursed his employees for contributions made to candidates. After news of the raid broke, the lobbying shop closed its doors on March 31, 2009.
Despite the investigations into PMA’s practices, lawmakers have continued to earmark for the firm’s former clients with Rep. Murtha requesting $16.2 million in earmarks for Parametric Technology Corporation, Ardiem Medical, MobileVox, DRS Technologies, and MTS Technologies. In exchange, these companies made contributions to Rep. Murtha’s campaign committee and PAC.
On June 11, 2009, the Ethics Committee revealed it was investigating “certain, specific allegations within the committee’s jurisdiction” relating to the PMA Group The Ethics Committee’s statement did not mention any specific lawmaker by name, and Rep. Murtha’s spokesperson said the committee had not contacted his office.
Since 1998, Rep. Murtha has accepted $2,378,552 from PMA Group employees and clients of the firm, making him the biggest recipient of contributions from the firm.
Kuchera Corporation Investigation
In January 2009, federal investigators raided the headquarters of Kuchera Corporation as well as the homes of the company’s two top executives. The investigation concerns the misuse of corporate funds to finance a private ranch owned by the company’s president, Bill Kuchera, and contract fraud. In response to the investigation surrounding the firm, the U.S. Navy placed the company on its Excluded Parties List, barring the firm from receiving any more federal contracts. The suspension was revoked, however, after Kuchera agreed to alter some of its accounting practices.
In 1982, Mr. Kuchera pleaded guilty to a single felony count related to drug trafficking and spent less than a year in prison. After his release Mr. Kuchera approached his uncle, then the owner of Kuchera Industries, based in Racine, Wisconsin, for a job. When Mr. Kuchera’s partner in the drug-running operation, Peter Whorley, was released from prison in 1986, he approached Mr. Kuchera and invested $50,000 in the fledgling company in exchange for a share of the profits. Kuchera’s felony conviction never barred his company from winning contracts to handle sensitive government work.
Since 2001, Rep. Murtha has directed approximately $50 million in earmarks to Kuchera Industries. In turn, since 2002, employees of Kuchera Industries and their families have donated to $90,500 to Rep. Murtha’s campaign committee. Additionally, since 2006, employees as well as their families have donated $7,000 to Rep. Murtha’s PAC. Kuchera Industries shares links with a host of other Rep. Murtha connected organisations, including lobbyists and defence contractors.
KSA Consulting is a lobbying firm that has employed Rep. Murtha’s brother, Robert “Kit” Murtha, as well as Carmen Scialabba. Mr. Scialabba joined KSA Consulting after leaving the House Appropriations Committee where he worked as an aide to Rep. Murtha. KSA clients that have received earmarks from Rep. Murtha include Aeptec Microsystems, Coherent Systems International, MountainTop Technologies, and KDH Technologies.
Mr. Murtha was personally invited to join KSA Consulting as a lobbyist in 2002 by Mr. Scialabba, where he established a reputation as an “earmark specialist.” In 2004, Congress passed a $417 billion defence appropriations bill, which included earmarks benefitting at least 10 companies represented by KSA Consulting. Records show that KSA Consulting directly lobbied Rep. Murtha’s office for seven of those companies. Mr. Murtha retired from KSA Consulting in 2006.
Concurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC)
CTC is a large non-profit that in 2007 received $220,423,075 in funding from the federal government. The group’s 990 form also indicates that it paid the PMA Group $461,334 for consulting services. Since 2002, CTC’s employees and employees’ family members have donated more than $126,000 to Rep. Murtha’s political committees and leadership PAC.
Commonwealth Research Institute (CRI) is a subsidiary non-profit of CTC. In 2007, the non-profit received $5,104,829 in funding from the federal government. Since 2003, the group’s totally funding has jumped from $632,884 to just over $5 million.
Federal authorities continue their investigation into (CTC) and its subsidiary, Commonwealth Research Institute (CRI). CRI is under particular scrutiny concerning the process in which it was awarded its non-profit status. When CRI petitioned the IRS for tax-exempt status the IRS questioned whether the group’s purpose as a research institute was adequate rationale for tax-exempt status and noted that “research results must be made available to the interested public.” CRI responded that it planned to work primarily with government contracts, only a small portion of which would be classified. But in the nine years since the group petitioned the government for tax-exempt status, it has never published any of its government backed research.
Previously, CRI caught the attention of the Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General (IG), which was investigating payments made by CRI to an Air Force official awaiting confirmation for work that was never done. Shortly after admitting to a Washington Post reporter that he was being paid, but not doing any work in return, the official committed suicide. The IG’s investigation has been placed on hold pending the outcome of other probes into Rep. Murtha related entities.
If, as it appears, Rep. Murtha accepted donations to his campaign and political action committees in direct exchange for earmarking federal funds, he may have committed bribery and honest services fraud and engaged in conduct not reflecting credibility on the House.
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title=”Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-NY)”
content=”Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) is a 20-term member of Congress representing New York’s 15th district. Rep. Rangel’s ethics issues stem from (1) improperly leasing four rent controlled apartments; (2) improperly using congressional stationary; (3) failing to report rental income from a vacation property; and (4) trading legislative assistance for contributions to the Rangel centre at City College. Rep. Rangel was included in CREW’s 2008 congressional corruption report.
Improper Rental Arrangements
Rep. Rangel leased four rent-stabilised apartments at Lenox Terrace in New York City, three of which serve as his personal residence and the fourth of which was used as an office for his campaign and political action committees. In total, Rep. Rangel paid about $3,800 for the apartments, roughly $7,000 less than new tenants would pay. Because Rep. Rangel was able to maintain at least two apartments in addition to his primary residence at rent-stabilised rates, and because he failed to pay fair-market rent on these apartments, Rep. Rangel may have violated New York housing law, the House gifts rule and campaign finance laws.
Improper Use of Congressional Stationary
Beginning in 2005, Rep. Rangel solicited funds for the Charles B. Rangel centre for Public Service at the City College of New York using his official congressional letterhead. House rules prohibit the use of congressional letterhead for any mailing paid for with non-appropriated funds. As a result, by sending out letters on his official letterhead on behalf of City College of New York, Rep. Rangel violated House rules.
Dominican Republic Villa
Rep. Rangel owns a beachfront villa on a Dominican Republic resort that rents for between $500 and $1,100 a night. Although Rep. Rangel’s villa is generally booked solid in the high season of December 15 through April 15, Rep. Rangel did not declare any rental income on his personal financial disclosure forms for the years from 1996-2000 and in 2006 and 2007. In total, Rep. Rangel failed to disclose $75,000 in rental income since 1988.
When Rep. Rangel purchased the villa in 1988, the company developing the resort gave him the mortgage, to be paid back over seven years at a rate of 10.5%. In 1990, the interest was waived for seven early investors including Rep. Rangel because the resort was generating less income than projected. By failing to include the rental income on his personal financial disclosure forms, Rep. Rangel may have violated the Ethics in Government Act and House rules. In addition, if when the interest was waived on his loan for the property Rep. Rangel received better terms than others similarly situated, the loan may have violated the House gifts rule.
In September 2008, Rep. Charles Rangel paid $10,800 in back taxes for his 2004, 2005 and 2006 returns related to the unreported rental income he earned from his Dominican Republic beach house.
Rep. Rangel helped preserve a tax loophole benefitting Nabors Industries at the same time he was soliciting donations to the Rangel centre from the company’s chief executive. If Rep. Rangel accepted a contribution to the Rangel centre in direct exchange for legislative assistance for Nabors Industries, he may have committed bribery, deprived his constituents of his honest services, and accepted an illegal gratuity.
From November 6-9, 2008, Rep. Rangel and four other members traveled to St. Maarten to attend a conference supposedly sponsored by the Carib News Foundation. Peter Flaherty, the president of National Legal and Policy centre, also traveled to St. Maarten for the event and found evidence the trip was actually paid for by corporations including Citigroup, IBM, AT&T, Verizon, Pfizer, Macy’s and American Airlines. Because corporations that employ lobbyists appear to have sponsored the trip, because these corporations did not have a direct and immediate relationship with the trip, and because the trip appears to have largely been recreational in nature, Rep. Rangel likely violated House travel rules by accepting expenses for the trip.
Rep. Rangel repeatedly failed to disclose all of his assets and unearned income in clear violation of House rules. From 1978-2006, the lawmaker failed to report buying, owning or selling assets 28 times. According to the Sunlight Foundation, “Assets worth between $239,026 and $831,000 appear or disappear with no disclosure of when they were acquired, how long they were held, or when they were sold, as the operative House rules at the time required.” From 2002-2006, Rep. Rangel failed to report up to $1.3 million in outside income on his financial disclosure forms. On August 12, 2009, Rep. Rangel filed an amendment to his 2007 personal financial disclosure form. The original report failed to disclose between $512,009 and $1.18 million in assets, including a checking account worth at least $250,000. If Rep. Rangel knowingly and wilfully failed to disclose, or misrepresented, the true value of his personal assets on his financial disclosure forms, he would appear to be in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001.
Improper Vehicle Storage
Rep. Rangel stored his 1972 Mercedes in a House parking lot for several years. The car was covered by a tarp and did not have licence plates. Its registration had expired in 2004 and the car did not display a current House parking permit. The space is valued at $290 per month, and must be reported to the IRS as imputed income. By storing an unlicensed vehicle in a House garage without a valid parking permit, Rep. Rangel violated House rules.
Ongoing Ethics Probe
Since Rep. Rangel initially requested the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct investigate allegations leveled against him, the committee’s probe has expanded. It currently is reviewing allegations into his use of congressional letterhead for fund-raising, the income he earned from the Dominican Republic villa, the three rent-controlled apartments he uses as his New York residence and the additional rent controlled apartment he used as a campaign office, his use of House parking facilities, the trip to the Caribbean and the alleged exchange of legislative assistance for a contribution to the Charles B. Rangel School of Public Service. As a result of this investigation, Rep. Rangel has paid more than $1 million in legal fees.
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title=”Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA)”
content=”Representative Laura Richardson (D-CA) is a two-term member of Congress, representing California’s 37th congressional district. Rep. Richardson’s ethics issues stem from accepting favourable loans and her failure to properly report a loan on her financial disclosure statements. Rep. Richardson was included in CREW’s 2008 report on congressional corruption.
Falling into Foreclosure
In May 2008, Rep. Richardson’s Sacramento home was sold in foreclosure. She claimed that this had happened without her knowledge and contrary to an agreement with her lender. Rep. Richardson had failed to make mortgage payments on the property for nearly a year and had defaulted on other home loans as well. Rep. Richardson also failed to include the mortgage on her Sacramento home on her personal financial disclosure statements. According to press reports, Rep. Richardson has defaulted on loans at least eight times on properties she owns in Long Beach, San Pedro and Sacramento. She also failed to pay approximately $9,000 in property taxes on the Sacramento residence. At the same time that Rep. Richardson was missing payments and failing to pay her taxes, in June and July 2007, she made three loans to her congressional campaign totaling $77,500.
On June 2, 2008, Washington Mutual Bank, Rep. Richardson’s lender, filed a notice of rescission of the foreclosure sale. By that time, James York, the man who had purchased the Sacramento home, had already invested money cleaning up the house and preparing it for resale. As a result, Mr. York filed suit against Rep. Richardson and Washington Mutual, alleging that Rep. Richardson received preferential treatment from Washington Mutual because of her position as a member of Congress. In July 2008, Mr. York dropped his suit, allowing Rep. Richardson to reclaim the home.
In October 2008, Rep. Richardson shared her personal financial records with her hometown paper in order to show she was up-to-date on previously defaulted home loans. She claimed the loans for her Long Beach, Sacramento, and San Pedro homes had been modified and that her finances were in order. Rep. Richardson’s amended 2007 and 2008 personal financial disclosures failed, however, to include the mortgage loans for her properties in Long Beach, Sacramento, and San Pedro.
Rep. Richardson’s housing issues have continued to plague the Sacramento neighbourhood where one of her homes is located. In 2008, the Sacramento Code Enforcement Department declared her home a “public nuisance.” After visits to the home, city inspectors reported they found junk and debris in the driveway and rotting fruit in the backyard, attracting rodents. In May 2009, after neighbours complained about the home’s overgrown yard, the city posted another violation requiring that the lawn be mowed. The lawn was mowed but issues with the upkeep of the house did not end. neighbours e-mailed and wrote letters complaining about the state of the home to Rep. Richardson and to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to no avail. Eventually, neighbours began taking care of the house themselves: paying gardeners to mow the lawn, water plants, and rake leaves.
Office of Congressional Ethics Investigation
In July 2009, it was reported that the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) had launched an investigation into the circumstances around the temporary foreclosure of Rep. Richardson’s Sacramento home and whether House gift rules were violated when neighbours spent money to clean up her property. The OCE contacted Mr. York and interviewed neighbours about the expenses they incurred cleaning up Rep. Richardson’s yard.
Rep. Richardson’s campaign committee’s amended July 2009 quarterly report indicated the committee paid $6,000, and owed $36,474.43 in legal fees. In the campaign committee’s original July 2009 quarterly report, there was an additional $10,000 reported for legal services, but that was removed in the amended July quarterly report.
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title=”Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-IN)”
content=”Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-IN) is a thirteen-term member of Congress, representing Indiana’s 1st congressional district. Rep. Visclosky is the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. His ethics issues stem from his close ties to the PMA Group, a now defunct lobbying firm that represented numerous clients, many of which received earmarks sponsored by the lawmaker.
The PMA Group
In May 2009, Rep. Visclosky was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury seeking information about the PMA Group. The PMA Group is a now defunct lobbying firm, founded by former House Appropriations Committee aide, Paul Magliocchetti. Mr. Magliocchetti and his firm had close ties to Rep. Visclosky — the lawmaker’s former chief of staff, Rich Kaelin, was a registered lobbyist for the firm. Rep. Visclosky benefitted from his close ties with the group; from 1998 through the end of 2008, Rep. Visclosky was the second highest recipient of donations from PMA Group lobbyists and the firm’s clients, with a total of $1,369,298. In 2008, the PMA Group was Rep. Visclosky’s number one campaign contributor. In exchange, the lawmaker rewarded PMA Group clients with millions in earmarks, at least $23 million in fiscal year 2008 and at least $10 million in fiscal year 2009.
In November 2008, the offices of the PMA Group as well as the home of its founder, Mr. Magliocchetti, were raided by the FBI. The PMA Group is under investigation for allegedly violating campaign finance laws by making “straw” donations to lawmakers, concealing the true source of the money. Additionally, Mr. Magliocchetti may have reimbursed his employees for contributions made to candidates.
In March 2009, Rep. Visclosky asked for and was granted permission by the Federal Election Committee (FEC) for permission to use campaign funds to defray legal costs associated with defending himself during the course of the investigation. The FEC has also granted Rep. Visclosky’s campaign committee permission to use funds to pay legal expenses incurred by current and former aides to the lawmaker stemming from the investigation.
Shortly after the subpoena was issued, Rep. Visclosky announced he would temporarily step down as chair of the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee. Rep. Visclosky also pledged to cease earmarking for any for-profit company in this year’s spending bills. Finally, the lawmaker said he would reject $21 million in requests made by former PMA Group clients to his office.
Purdue Research Park Northwest Indiana
The Purdue Research Park of Northwest Indiana (PRPNI) is a technology incubator established in 2005. Based in Merrillville, Indiana, in Rep. Visclosky’s district, the lawmaker was instrumental in securing the original $6.9 million that financed PRPNI’s construction and he has continued to support the project. The goal of PRPNI was to create a space for fledgling businesses to get their start, expand, and eventually move out to more permanent space, but after four years and millions in investments, PRPNI is one-quarter empty.
Instead of serving as an incubator for struggling new businesses, PRPNI has hosted satellite offices of established government contractors and PMA Group clients. At least five current or former PRPNI tenants — 21st Century Systems, NuVant Systems, Inc., ProLogic, Inc., Sierra Nevada Corporation, and ACT-1 — are former clients of the PMA Group. Sierra Nevada, one of the first companies recruited by Rep. Visclosky, has closed its office in the Park.
Employees of the five firms as well as the corporate PACs of three of the companies have made donations to Rep. Visclosky’s campaign committee or political action committee.
If Rep. Visclosky traded earmarks for campaign contributions, he may have committed bribery and honest services fraud and he engaged in conduct that does not reflect creditably upon the House.
DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT ON REP. PETE VISCLOSKY (D-IN) >>“
title=”Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)”
content=”Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) is a 10-term member of Congress, representing California’s 35th congressional district. She is a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee. Rep. Waters’ ethics issues stem from a meeting she arranged between officials at the Department of Treasury and OneUnited Bank, a bank with which she has financial ties. Rep. Waters was included in CREW’s 2005 and 2006 congressional corruption reports for unrelated matters.
Meeting Between OneUnited and Treasury Officials
In September 2008, Rep. Waters asked then-Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson to hold a meeting for minority-owned banks that had suffered from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac losses. The Treasury Department complied and held a session with approximately a dozen senior banking regulators, representatives from minority-owned banks and their trade association.
Officials of OneUnited Bank, one of the largest black-owned banks in the country, which also has close ties to Rep. Waters, attended the meeting along with Rep. Waters’ chief of staff. Kevin Cohee, chief executive officer of OneUnited, used the meeting as an opportunity to ask for bailout funds. Former Bush White House officials stated they were surprised when OneUnited officials asked for bailout funds because they understood the meeting had been arranged to discuss the losses minority-owned banks endured when the federal government took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
In December 2008, Rep. Waters intervened again, asking Treasury to host another meeting to ensure minority-owned banks received part of the $700 billion allocated under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Within two weeks, on December 19, 2008, OneUnited secured $12.1 million in bailout funds.
Rep. Waters did not disclose her financial ties to OneUnited Bank to Treasury officials in her letters requesting meetings between regulators and bank officials. Treasury officials claimed that although OneUnited also requested a meeting with regulators regarding Fannie and Freddie Mac losses, it wasn’t until Rep. Waters intervened that the Treasury approved a meeting.
By using her position as a member of Congress to assist a bank to which she has financial ties, Rep. Waters violated House conflict-of-interest rules and engaged in conduct that does not reflect creditably upon the House.
DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT ON REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA) >>“
title=”Rep. Don Young (R-AK)”
content=”Representative Don Young is a nineteen-term member of Congress, representing Alaska at-large. Rep. Young served as Chairman of the House Resources Committee from 1994 to 2000, and as the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee from 2000 to 2006. In the 111th Congress, Rep. Young lost his position as ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee when House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner did not support Rep. Young’s efforts to maintain his leadership role on the committee.
Rep. Young’s ethics violations stem from the misuse of his position to benefit family and friends and to steer millions of dollars in earmarks to corporations in exchange for contributions to his campaign committee and political action committee, Midnight Sun PAC (MSPAC). Rep. Young is currently under federal investigation for (1) his role in securing a $10 million earmark for a road in Florida; (2) assistance he offered to convicted VECO Corporation CEO Bill Allen; and (3) his ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. At one time Rep. Young was being investigated for his financial relationship with convicted businessman Dennis Troha. Rep. Young was included in CREW’s 2007 and 2008 congressional corruption reports.
Earmarking Transportation Funds to a Campaign Donor
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is currently investigating whether Rep. Young earmarked $10 million dollars for a construction project in exchange for campaign donations. In 2005, while in Florida to discuss upcoming transportation projects, Rep. Young attended a fundraiser held by Daniel Aronoff, a land developer who stood to gain financially from the passage of an Interstate 75 expansion. The fundraiser brought in $40,000 for Rep. Young and Mr. Aranoff personally donated a total of $3,000 to Rep. Young’s campaign committee and PAC. Shortly after his Florida trip, Rep. Young earmarked $10 million in the fiscal year 2006 transportation bill for I-75 improvements.
After the Lee County Metropolitan Planning organisation voted to block the interchange because it could threaten nearby wetlands, Rep. Young threatened to revoke the money entirely.
In 2008, both the House and Senate voted to direct the DOJ to launch an investigation into the 2005 earmark for the interchange at Coconut Road. After the calls for the inquiry, Rep. Young admitted that he sponsored the earmark and that his staff “corrected” an already enrolled bill by inserting the earmark shortly before the bill went to the White House to be signed by the president.
Earmarking Transportation Funds for Bridges
In the 109th Congress, Rep. Young earmarked over $400 million dollars to Alaska for two bridges serving tiny populations of constituents. Rep. Young’s daughter, Joni Young, and his son-in-law, Art Nelson, own land near one of the proposed bridges and stand to profit if the project is completed.
After negative press coverage and pressure from colleagues, Rep. Young agreed to release the obligation that the earmarked money be used for the specific bridges. The funds were still given to Alaska, however, as part of the state’s general federal highway allotment fund from which legislators can still fund the bridge projects.
Association with VECO Corporation
Rep. Young is the subject of a criminal inquiry into whether he accepted bribes, illegal gratuities or unreported gifs from VECO corporation. VECO President Peter Leathard has been quoted saying his company works to elect politicians that back mineral exploration. To that end, since 2002, VECO executives have donated $89,500 to the Rep. Young’s campaign committee and PAC.
The corruption probe of VECO led to conviction of several of his fellow Alaskan politicians. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) was convicted on seven counts of failing to disclose gifts he received from VECO CEO Bill Allen, but the conviction was later voided due to prosecutorial misconduct.
Rep. Young’s office confirmed he is under investigation by the Department of Justice for his ties VECO. The status of the investigation has been complicated by the voiding of Sen. Stevens’ conviction; but DOJ claims that its investigation continues to move forward.
During Sen. Stevens’ trial, summaries of interviews between Mr. Allen and FBI officials became public. Mr. Allen disclosed that VECO Vice President Rick Smith organised golf outings for Rep. Young where participants each contributed $100 to the congressman as a “thank you.” Mr. Smith pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy. When the DOJ investigation into VECO surfaced, Rep. Young’s campaign wrote a $37,626 check to reimburse Mr. Allen for the annual pig roasts he had hosted for the congressman. The check was never cashed and the campaign subsequently gave the $37,626 to the U.S. Treasury.
Association with PBS&J
Rep. Young has received campaign contributions from employees of Florida based construction firm PBS&J. The firm’s chairman pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign laws in July of 2007 after a federal investigation revealed that he was reimbursing PBS&J employees for making donations to favoured candidates. PBS&J previously had received a federal grant to conduct a study of the Rep. Young’s proposed bridges and in June 2006, prepared a cost estimate review study analysing the construction planning.
Three PBS&J executives have been convicted for their part in a long-running scheme to circumvent campaign election laws. In October 2007, the Federal Election Commission launched it’s own investigation into the illegal campaign contributions and use of political action committees by PBS&J.
Ties to Jack Abramoff
Rep. Young’s ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff are the subject of a grand jury investigation. In September 2002, Rep. Young and Ohio Rep. Steve LaTourette sent a letter to the General Service Administration (GSA) urging it to “give preferential treatment to organisations such as Indian tribes” during the development of the Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington, D.C. Mr. Abramoff was representing the tribes hoping to secure lease space in the building. Just weeks after sending the letter to the GSA, Rep. Young’s PAC received $7,000 from Mr. Abramoff’s tribal clients and another $5,000 before the end of 2002.
Members of Rep. Young’s staff have also been linked to Mr. Abramoff. When Duane Gibson left his position as Rep. Young’s chief of staff to join Mr. Abramoff, he recommended that Mark Zachares be given a job with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which Rep. Young chaired. In April of 2007, Mr. Zachares pleaded guilty to bribery charges. In his plea agreement, Mr. Zachares admitted that his intent was to use his position in the House Transportation Infrastructure Committee to steer clients toward Mr. Abramoff’s firm with the promise that eventually Mr. Abramoff would hire him.
In 2001, Rep. Young, as the new chairman of the Transportation Committee, hired Fraser Verrusio to serve as director of outreach for the committee. The following year, Mr. Verrusio was promoted to policy director. In March 2009, Mr. Verrusio was indicted by a grand jury in the Abramoff lobbying scandal on charges of conspiracy and illegal gratuity for attending an all-expense paid trip to the World Series and failing to report the gift. The grand jury contends that in exchange for the trip to the World Series, Mr. Verrusio conspired with lobbyists, a Senate aide and an equipment rental company to alter a federal highway bill. Mr. Verrusio was the second Rep. Young aide to be charged in the Abramoff scandal.
After claiming that he had no relationship, personal or professional, with Mr. Abramoff it was discovered that in 2000, Rep. Young had used Mr. Abramoff’s MCI skybox tickets for two events, which he did not report to the FEC until after the Abramoff scandal broke.
Records exposed in 2008 from two of Mr. Abramoff’s law firms show over 120 contacts with Rep. Young and his staff — including 10 with Rep. Young himself — over a 25 month period.
Ties to Dennis Troha
In April of 2007, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin opened an investigation into an alleged deal between Rep. Young and convicted Wisconsin businessman Dennis Troha. In the 2005 transportation bill, Rep. Young inserted a controversial item that benefitted Mr. Troha’s trucking company. Months before the legislation became law, Rep. Young received $22,000 from Mr. Troha, his family members, JHT executives and their spouses.
In March of 2008, Mr. Troha was sentenced to probation for his role in an illegal political donation scheme.
In the last two years, Rep. Young has paid out over $1.1 million in legal fees in connection with the various investigations. Rep. Young’s campaign committee reported debts to one law firm totaling $46,042.62.
Rep. Young’s legal defence fund, which was set up to defray the costs of the various investigations, has received $28,000 in donations since July of 2008 and has paid out $24,000 to Akin, Gump, Strauss & Feld – the firm handling the lawmaker’s criminal investigations.
If, as it appears, Rep. Young accepted donations to his campaign and political action committees in direct exchange for earmarking federal funds, he may have committed bribery and honest services fraud.
DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT ON REP. DON YOUNG (R-AK) >>“
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