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Congressional junket paid for by bailout recipients

Posted by Richard on January 30, 2009

The National Legal and Policy Center, which is dedicated to "promoting ethics in public life," has asked the TARP Inspector General to look into a November Caribbean junket by Rep. Charles Rangel and five other members of Congress. The corporate sponsorship of this Congressional getaway clearly violated House rules and appears to be yet another example of "pay to play" (emphasis added):

The purported purpose of the Congressional trip was to attend the Caribbean Multi-Cultural Business Conference. The event took place November 6-9, 2008 on the sunny Caribbean island of St. Maarten at the Sonesta Maho Bay Resort & Casino, after Congress had approved the $700 billion bailout package in October.

The “lead sponsor” was Citigroup which contributed $100,000. Citigroup was certainly aware that it would be a major recipient of bailout funds. It was also aware that its fortunes had become increasingly reliant on Congressional actions. Citigroup should have also been aware that corporate sponsorship of such an event was banned by House Rules adopted on March 1, 2007, in response to the Abramoff scandal and the infamous golf trip to Scotland.

Taxpayers are now Citigroup’s largest shareholder after infusions of $45 billion.

NLPC President Peter Flaherty attended the St. Maarten’s event in order to document potential violations of law and House Rules. The sessions were lightly attended. The primary purpose of attending for most participants appeared to be to take a vacation.

In addition to Rangel, the other members of Congress who attended were Donald Payne (D-NJ), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-MI), Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Donna Christensen (D-VI).

NLPC’s Complaint reads, in part:

“When the TARP was presented to Congress, it was argued that the situation was dire, and that the failure of major financial institutions posed a systemic risk to our economy. The stated goal was to unfreeze credit so that banks can make loans to businesses and individuals. It was never contemplated that banks use their capital to buy influence on Capitol Hill by funding vacations for members of Congress.”

 Call me cynical, but I bet notorious tax-scofflaw Charlie Rangel and his cohorts contemplated exactly that.

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