Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, today released its 2011 list of Washington’s “Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians.” The members of the House of Representatives on the list, in alphabetical order, include:
- Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL)
- Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
- Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL)
- Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA)
- Rep. David Rivera (R-FL)
- Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)
- Rep. Don Young (R-AK)
Dishonorable Mentions for 2011 include:
- Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)
- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA)
- Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
- Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY)
- Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY)
Spencer Bachus (R-AL): He has become the face of a congressional “insider trading” scandal that has rocked the Washington establishment as 2011 draws to a close. Rep. Spencer Bachus, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, was one of the principal targets of a 60 Minutes investigative report on the scandal, which aired on CBS in September 2011.
The report was based, at least in part, on the book Throw Them All Out by author Peter Schweizer, which outed a slew of members of Congress who allegedly profited in the financial markets by trading on insider information. Bachus was not the only congressman cited by 60 Minutes, others included Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) and House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), but the Alabama Republican stood out for his remarkable “good fortune” in shorting the stock market.
According to the allegations made by Schweizer and 60 Minutes, Congressman Bachus, at the time the ranking Republican on the Financial Services Committee, traded short-term stock options in 2008 after receiving a private briefing for congressional leaders by Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. The subject of the briefing: the pending meltdown in the global economy. Those privileged to attend the meeting reportedly sat around a table in Pelosi’s office, having left their cell phones outside the room to avoid leaks.
Congressman Bachus’s aggressive trading practices, in which he was able to benefit by betting on falling stock prices, reportedly earned him substantial profits from some of the 40 trades placed during the months of July through November 2008, many of the trades occurring after the September meeting.
In the wake of the congressional insider trading scandal, legislation banning insider trading is under consideration in Congress. The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee advanced a bill banning insider trading on December 14, 2011. Similar legislation (pushed by Rep. Bachus himself, obviously to deflect criticism) has stalled in the House. Critics have suggested, and so has the House Ethics Committee, that the law already prohibits insider trading by members of Congress.
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL): In a year full of shocking congressional sex scandals, perhaps none is more serious than that involving Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), who allegedly sexually harassed a female government employee and then engaged in a cruel campaign of retaliation when she rebuffed his advances. On March 7, 2011, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against Hastings on behalf of the victim, Ms. Winsome Packer.
The alleged harassment and retaliation began in 2008 when Hastings (formerly an impeached federal judge) served as Chairman of the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Ms. Packer served as his employee. According to Judicial Watch’s complaint, “Mr. Hastings’ intention was crystal clear: he was sexually attracted to Ms. Packer, wanted a sexual relationship with her, and would help progress her career if she acquiesced to his sexual advances.”
These advances included: making multiple demands that Ms. Packer allow Rep. Hastings to stay in her apartment while she served as the Commission’s lead staff representative overseas; subjecting Ms. Packer to unwanted physical contact, including hugging her with both arms while pressing his body against her body and his face against her face; inviting her on multiple occasions to accompany him alone to his hotel room; making sexual comments and references to Ms. Packer; and asking Ms. Packer humiliating and inappropriate questions in public, such as “What kind of underwear are you wearing?”
In addition, Hastings seems to have abused his office by using government travel as a cover for sightseeing and by soliciting gifts and campaign contributions from congressional staff.
On November 28, 2011, The House Ethics Committee announced that it will take an additional 45 days to determine whether to launch a full investigation into the allegations against Hastings.
Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) and the Blagojevich Co-Conspirators: It took more than two years and two trials, but disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod “Blago” Blagojevich was finally brought to justice on June 27, 2011, for a number of crimes, including his efforts to “sell” President Obama’s vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder. He became the state’s fourth governor, and one of at least 79 Illinois public officials, to be found guilty of a crime since 1972, proving that Illinois has certainly lived up to its reputation as a cesspool of corruption.
As the trial unfolded, it became clear that many hands were dirty in the Blago scandal (See Chicago Mayor and former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm “Rahmbo” Emanuel, who was finally forced to testify during this second Blago trial – for a whopping five minutes – and President Obama himself, who was interviewed by the FBI in the scandal even before he took office).
But all of the focus now seems to center on Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.
The House Ethics Committee announced on December 2, 2011, that it will continue its investigation into allegations that “Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. or someone acting on his behalf offered to raise campaign cash for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange for a Senate appointment in 2008.” The committee also released an initial report from the Office of Congressional Ethics that said there was “probable cause” to believe that Jackson either directed a third party or had knowledge of a third party’s effort to convince the since-convicted Blagojevich to appoint Jackson Jr. in exchange for campaign cash.
The evidence suggests Jackson, Jr. attempted to bribe his way into the U.S. Senate. And it will take a monumental lack of attention on the part of the House Ethics Committee to overlook the Illinois Congressman’s role in this serious scandal.
Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA): A first-timer on Judicial Watch’s “Ten Most Wanted” list, Rep. Laura Richardson is in hot water for reportedly misusing her congressional staff for personal and political gain. Rep. Richardson is now under investigation by the House Ethics Committee regarding allegations by former staff member Maria Angel Macias. Macias alleges that she was required by Richardson to order other staffers to run personal errands for the Democrat congresswoman, such as picking up her dry cleaning and working on her reelection campaign at taxpayer expense.
Richardson’s alleged behavior would violate federal law, which protects federal employees from “being forced by job-related threats or reprisals to donate to political candidates or causes.” House ethics rules also specify that “in no event may a member or office compel a House employee to do campaign work.”
Macias indicated to the Committee that Richardson regularly directed her to call staff members outside of office hours to “make them work at campaign events.” According to former employees, they were required to work the extended hours “under threat of dismissal,” and, reportedly, were even required to act as servers at such events. Shirley Cooks, chief of staff for Representative Richardson, was also directed to ensure that staff members “volunteered” for off-hour campaign projects.
Rep. Richardson has responded by denying that she has ever forced employees to volunteer on campaigns, then played the “race card,” claiming she is being targeted because she is black and because she is a woman. Richardson has further indicated that she would explore whether the Ethics Committee “has engaged in discriminatory conduct“… which is a blatant attempt to intimidate committee members and undermine the investigation.
Richardson is not new to controversy and investigations of ethics violations. Complaints against her include commandeering emergency helicopters in her California district for use as sightseeing vehicles for her staff and of her receiving special treatment when a bank rescinded the sale of a foreclosed home Rep. Richardson owned in Sacramento and then restructured her mortgage. This was the third home on which Rep. Richardson had missed payments.
The House Ethics Committee failed to punish her over the foreclosure deal (no surprises there), and approximately one year later Richardson again defaulted on her payments. True to form, however, Richardson failed to take responsibility for her actions, claiming the default was due to a “clerical error.”
Rep. David Rivera (R-FL): Rep. David Rivera, U.S. Representative for Florida’s 25th congressional district, is mired in numerous ethics controversies stemming from charges of money laundering and tax evasion schemes initiated when Rivera served in the Florida House of Representatives. The Republican congressman, serving his first term, is currently under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Miami-Dade Police public corruption unit, and the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office.
Of particular interest is the investigation by the FBI and the IRS regarding Rep. Rivera’s dealings with the Flagler Dog Track, now known as the Magic City Casino. The basis for the investigation relates to payments reportedly totaling as much as $1 million made by the casino to Millennium Marketing in the guise of a consulting contract. Most of the money is said to have been paid in 2008.
Millennium Marketing is owned by Rivera’s mother and godmother, and Rivera supposedly benefited from the arrangement and is thus the subject of a tax evasion inquiry. Income from the consulting contract was never reported by Rivera on his tax forms, nor did he mention the Millennium deal in financial disclosure forms filed with the Florida Ethics Commission. Instead, Rivera indicated that he had worked as a consultant for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in addition to being a member of the Florida House of Representatives. He reported no income for USAID, however, and the agency had no record of his having ever worked there.
For a long time, Rep. Rivera denied ever receiving any income from the dog track, but just before heading to Congress, Rivera admitted receiving $132,000 in “undisclosed loans” from Millennium. He claims he paid the money back.
Participating in the dog track inquiry and at one time having had the lead on the case is the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, assisted by the Miami-Dade Police. Investigators are also taking a close look at Rivera’s campaign spending, including $75,000 he paid in 2010 “to a now-defunct consulting company owned by the daughter of a top aide.”
In August 2010, an investigative subcommittee of the House Ethics Committee charged Rep. Waters with three counts of violating House rules and ethics regulations in connection with her use of power and influence on behalf of OneUnited Bank. She was expected to face an ethics trial in late 2010, but the committee delayed the trial indefinitely on November 29, 2010, citing newly discovered documentary evidence that may impact proceedings.
The delay apparently has less to do with evidence and more to do with infighting on the panel. Ultimately, an outside counsel was retained and a recommendation was expected by January 2, 2012. However, the Committee announced that the Waters probe will be extended until July 31, 2012.
According to The Associated Press, the charges currently under the House Ethics Committee microscope “focus on whether Waters broke the rules in requesting federal help [bailout money] for a bank where her husband owned stock and had served on the board of directors.” At the time she requested the help, Waters neglected to tell Treasury officials about her financial ties to OneUnited Bank.
Without intervention by Waters (and a big assist from her co-conspirator Rep. Barney Frank), OneUnited was an extremely unlikely candidate for Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funding. The Treasury Department indicated that it would only provide bailout funds to healthy banks to jump-start lending. However, Judicial Watch uncovered documents detailing the deplorable financial condition of OneUnited at the time of the cash infusion. In fact, just prior to the bailout, OneUnited received a “less than satisfactory rating.”
Aside from OneUnited, there was yet another scandal with Waters’ fingerprints all over it.
According to The Washington Times: “A lobbyist known as one of California’s most successful power brokers while serving as a legislative leader in that state paid Rep. Maxine Waters’ husband $15,000 in consulting fees at a time she was co-sponsoring legislation that would help save the real-estate finance business of one of the lobbyist’s best-paying clients…”
“Real-estate finance businesses,” such as the one helped by Waters’ influence, were labeled a “scam” by the IRS in a 2006 report.
Despite all of her ethical woes, Maxine Waters seeks to take over the retiring Barney Frank’s position as the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee. It is quite obvious that Rep. Waters has neither the integrity nor the ethics necessary to hold such a position of public trust.
Rep. Don Young (R-AK): Rep. Don Young (R-AK) may have achieved a new level of corruption in 2011. The House Ethics Committee announced just before Christmas that the Alaska Republican Congressman was cleared of allegations by the House Ethics Committee that he exceeded the limit on campaign donations to his legal defense fund – which was set up to defend Young against an entirely different set of corruption charges! There was good reason the House Ethics Committee released this decision after most of official Washington left for the Christmas holiday, because the Committee’s “exoneration” is a joke.
House ethics rules prohibit contributions from any single source that exceed $5,000. Young received $63,000 from “twelve companies that… were in fact owned by Gary Chouest, his wife, and his five children, or some combination of those seven individuals.” Despite an independent analysis by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) that the shell-game was a rather transparent violation of the contribution limit, the House Ethics Committee gave Young a free pass because the 12 companies controlled by essentially one individual were “separate legal entities”!
On July 24, 2007, the Wall Street Journal reported that Young was under federal investigation for taking bribes, illegal gratuities, and unreported gifts from VECO Corporation, an Anchorage, Alaska-based company. Two executives in the company, including former company CEO Bill Allen, had already pled guilty to bribing members of the Alaska legislature. Reportedly, Young received $157,000 from VECO.
Rep. Young has developed a legendary reputation for steering federal dollars to Alaska. As The New Republic put it, Rep. Young is “well known for his sharp elbows and generous appetite for legislative pork,” including the $223 million he secured to build the so-called “Bridge to Nowhere.” Eventually, lawmakers responded to the mounting criticism, and the bridge was defunded.
Over the years, Rep. Young has been linked to lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s illegal efforts to lease government property, and he has been criticized for adding a $10 million earmark to a transportation bill for a short piece of road in Florida near Fort Myers, called Coconut Road. The local real estate developer who owned 4,000 acres along the road helped raise $40,000 for Young’s campaign, which might go a long way toward explaining why the Alaska congressman aggressively pushed to build a road in Florida.
Rep. Barney Frank blamed redistricting for his decision to leave office, but the congressional ethics investigation of the OneUnited Bank scandal also implicating California Rep. Maxine Waters must have helped make it easier for him to flee the capital. Both Frank and Waters improperly intervened to secure taxpayer TARP bailout money for the corruptly-run Massachusetts bank, earning them placements on the 2010 “Most Wanted” list.
When asked about the scandal, Frank admitted that he spoke to a “federal regulator,” but according to The Wall Street Journal, “he didn’t remember which federal regulator he spoke with.” That seemed a lie at the time, so Judicial Watch investigated. Sure enough, according to explosive Treasury Department emails uncovered by Judicial Watch in 2010, it appears this nameless bureaucrat was none other than then-Treasury Secretary Henry “Hank” Paulson!
Frank will forever be tied to the implosion at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – and the resulting collapse of the housing market. Frank, a key member of Congress on the “take” from Fannie and Freddie, resisted any effort to subject the two Government Sponsored Enterprises to any effective oversight.
For example, during a hearing on September 10, 2003, before the House Committee on Financial Services considering a Bush administration proposal to further regulate Fannie and Freddie, Rep. Frank stated: “I want to begin by saying that I am glad to consider the legislation, but I do not think we are facing any kind of a crisis. That is, in my view, the two Government Sponsored Enterprises we are talking about here, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are not in a crisis… I do not think at this point there is a problem with a threat to the Treasury.” Frank received $42,350 in campaign contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac between 1989 and 2008.
Frank’s corrupt behavior earned the attention of his congressional colleagues in 1990, when the House voted 408-18 to reprimand him for abusing his office to “fix” 33 parking tickets for Stephen Gobie, an acknowledged prostitute and former boyfriend of Barney Frank who had accumulated the tickets while driving Frank’s car. Frank wrote a memo intended to shorten probation for Gobie, who had been convicted of the sex and drug crimes of operating a gay prostitution ring out of the apartment he shared with Frank.
Frank also admitted in the book Reckless Endangerment that he helped yet another boyfriend gain a lucrative position with Fannie and Freddie, which is yet another abuse of office. When confronted on the controversy, Frank said, “If it is a [conflict of interest] then much of Washington is involved in [conflicts].”
That might be the most factual statement Barney Frank has ever made.
Perhaps most notably, on January 22, 1997, by a vote of 395 to 28, the House of Representatives voted to reprimand Speaker Gingrich for “intentional… or reckless” disregard for House rules and ordered him to pay an unprecedented penalty of $300,000 for ethical wrongdoing. It was the first time in the 208-year history of the House that such a step against a Speaker had been taken. Gingrich had faced a raft of charges for alleged ethics violations during his tenure in the House.
Following a scathing special counsel report to the House Ethics Committee detailing the charges against Gingrich, the former Speaker admitted to providing “inaccurate, incomplete and unreliable” statements to congressional investigators. In a written statement, Gingrich stated that his actions ”brought down on the people’s house a controversy which could weaken the faith people have in their government.”
During the current presidential campaign, Gingrich has continuously misled the American people about how he, like many retired politicians, participated in DC’s lucrative influence-peddling industry.
Gingrich insinuated during one presidential debate that some members of Congress who took money from Fannie and Freddie should go to jail. And yet, over a span of eight years, according to Bloomberg News, The Gingrich Group was paid between $1.6 and $1.8 million by the home mortgage company. At the same time, Freddie Mac was engaged in massive fraud. Gingrich suggested he was a “historian” for Freddie Mac. But the evidence clearly shows he was “throwing his weight” behind the two Government Sponsored Enterprises to prop them up, saying in one interview that Fannie and Freddie provided a more “liquid and stable housing finance system than we would have” without them. Ironically, President Obama, the man who Gingrich is seeking to oust from office, is keeping secret each and every Freddie Mac (and Fannie Mae) document, including those that could shed light on Gingrich’s relationship with Freddie.
Gingrich also has claimed, “I have never done lobbying of any kind.” However, as documented by the Washington Examiner’s Timothy Carney, Gingrich was a hired gun for the drug lobby who “worked hard to persuade Republican congressmen to vote for the Medicare drug subsidy that the industry favored.” Carney reports that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America confirmed that they paid Gingrich. Bloomberg News “cited sources from leading drug companies AstraZeneca and Pfizer saying that those companies had also hired Gingrich.”
Gingrich has also sustained heavy criticism for his troubled personal life, including the admission by Gingrich that he cheated on his second wife while serving as Speaker of the House with then-House employee and current wife, Callista Bisek.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): Despite the media firestorm over her military travel abuses ignited by a Judicial Watch investigation, Nancy Pelosi continued to use the United States Air Force as her own personal travel agency right up until her final days as House Speaker, according to documents Judicial Watch uncovered from the Air Force in 2011.
Pelosi used Air Force aircraft for 43 flights from January 1 to October 1, 2010. By comparison, Nancy Pelosi logged 47 flights in the previous nine-month period–April 1, 2009, to January 1, 2010–according to previous documents uncovered by Judicial Watch. In other words, she did not back off at all from her pattern of abuse.
In fact, these documents show Pelosi not only receiving special treatment on military flights (chocolate covered strawberries for her birthday, for example) but also ferrying her family back and forth on military aircraft, including her husband, daughter, granddaughters and son-in-law. The following is a link to records detailing one such flight with her daughter Christina.
Pelosi was also caught up in the insider trading scandal that exploded into the news in November 2011 courtesy of author Peter Schweizer and his book, Throw Them All Out.
As detailed by Bloomberg, “Pelosi and her husband, Paul, with a net worth estimated at $40 million, bought shares in the initial public offering of credit-card company Visa Inc. in 2008, when Pelosi was speaker of the House… They bought the shares just before legislation died that would have limited the fees credit-card issuers could charge retailers. The shares more than doubled in the next two months.”
Pelosi has also invited San Francisco investment banker William Hambrecht to serve as an expert at economic forums on Capitol Hill on multiple occasions, even speaking to reporters by his side at the U.S. Capitol, without disclosing the fact that Hambrecht is her son’s boss and her husband Paul’s business partner. One of the business deals struck by Paul Pelosi and Hambrecht yielded more than $100,000 in income for the Pelosi family in 2010.
While serving as Speaker of the House, Pelosi repeatedly overlooked corruption by her fellow partisans. The evidence suggests this “ethics blind spot” extends too frequently to her own activities. Pelosi’s penchant for abusing the perks of her office is reprehensible.
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY): One year after the House of Representatives voted 333-79 to “censure” Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) for serious incidents of corruption, Rangel remains in Congress. And, in fact, the very colleagues who shamed him in the well of Congress for his ethics violations, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi, now stand by his side.
What does this prove? That Rangel did not receive proper punishment for the 13 violations articulated in the House Ethics Committee report, including the following allegations:
- Forgetting to pay taxes on $75,000 in rental income he earned from his offshore rental property (Rangel was formerly in charge of the committee responsible for writing tax policy)
- Misusing his congressional office, staff and resources to raise money for his private Rangel Center for Public Service, to be housed at the City College of New York (he also put the squeeze on donors who had business before his House Ways and Means Committee, and used the congressional “free mail” privilege to solicit funds)
- Misusing his residentially-zoned Harlem apartment as a campaign headquarters
- Failing to report $600,000 in income on his official congressional financial disclosure reports, which contained “numerous errors and omissions”
And these are just the ethics violations under the Ethics Committee’s microscope. The Committee did not even consider other serious corruption charges against Rangel. For example, it has been alleged that Rangel preserved a tax loophole for an oil company in exchange for a Rangel Center donation and used improper influence to maintain ownership of his highly coveted rent-controlled apartment — the same apartment he improperly used for campaign activities.
Rangel should have been expelled from the House of Representatives a year ago. Instead he remains in power and on Judicial Watch’s “Most Wanted” list as a “Dishonorable Mention.”