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Shocker: Dem Chairman Got Kickbacks?

From a discreet Washington Post:

House Homeland Security Committee faces ethics inquiry

Chairman received donations from firms appearing at hearing

By Carol D. Leonnig and Spencer S. Hsu
Saturday, December 5, 2009

At a hearing in late March, the nation’s credit card companies faced the threat of expensive new rules from an unlikely regulator: the House Homeland Security Committee, chaired by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.).

The committee had never before dealt with credit card issues, but Thompson warned Visa, MasterCard and others that Congress might need to impose tighter security standards costing millions of dollars to protect customers from identity theft.

Behind the scenes, some of Thompson’s staff members sensed a different motive — an attempt to pressure the companies into making political donations to the chairman, according to several former committee staff members.

Now the House ethics committee is investigating the propriety of the committee’s operations, and whether its members’ interactions with companies compromised its work. Within a few weeks of the hearing, Thompson collected $15,000 in donations from the credit card industry and its Washington-based lobbyists, a Washington Post analysis shows. No legislation on card security has been introduced.

Several former committee staff members, who requested anonymity in order to speak freely, have told The Post the hearing on credit cards was one of several committee actions that concerned the staff because of their consideration of potential donors and contractors friendly to Thompson. The current ethics inquiry was prompted this summer, according to an ethics document obtained by The Post, when a former committee aide alleged she was fired after complaining to her bosses that a lobbyist made improper requests to staff members.

Thompson — who made headlines separately this week by calling a committee hearing to investigate Tareq and Michaele Salahi’s ability to get past Secret Service and into a White House state dinner without invitation — said he did not arrange a hearing to generate campaign donations

Several congressional ethics experts said it could be an ethics violation if a lawmaker or senior staff member arranged a hearing for the purpose of collecting campaign contributions. Proving such a case would be difficult, they said, and investigators would need evidence that a lawmaker intended to use a hearing for fundraising leverage.

Sarah Dufendach, a vice president at Common Cause, said the House ethics committee should take the staff member’s allegation seriously, especially because Thompson’s office has had a number of staff departures. She questioned whether credit card security was a top committee priority.

"You have to wonder: Did this take precedence over everything else that was on your committee’s plate?" she said. Joshua Levy, an attorney for the fired staff member, Veronique Pluviose-Fenton, declined to comment…

Thompson’s committee has been roiled by turnover this year, with at least 10 staff members resigning or being fired, according to congressional payroll records…

In April and May, donations of $250 to $1,500 came in from lobbyists registered to represent Visa, American Express, MasterCard, Heartland and the National Installment Lenders Association, among others, as well as from the American Bankers Association’s political action committee.

Thompson’s committee also has faced criticism that it has been overly focused on helping and encouraging minority contractors — especially in his poor Mississippi district — to get federal government work. In March, both Republican and Democratic staff members raised concerns when Thompson moved to hold a committee oversight meeting at his alma mater in Mississippi, Tougaloo College, on how small contractors and minority-owned contractors could get Department of Homeland Security contracts. During part of the session, companies explained their value to the department, and staff members complained that it appeared to be an advertisement for companies and an inappropriate use of committee resources.

In July, Thompson held a hearing on Federal Emergency Management Agency housing alternatives in a disaster. Three invited witnesses were contractors who developed temporary shelters, and they testified about the value of their domes, trailers and assorted services. Two of those companies’ executives, lobbyists and family members donated to Thompson within a few weeks of the event.

Avant said the March meeting was an official committee meeting to help companies learn how to tap into $787 billion in economic stimulus funds. He said the July hearing was intended to let lawmakers hear "outside the box" housing solutions from the private sector…

More bad news about a Democrat thoughtfully saved for a sleepy Saturday morning by our watchdog media.

Now the House ethics committee is investigating the propriety of the committee’s operations, and whether its members’ interactions with companies compromised its work.

This is like siccing the UN’s IAEA on Iran’s nuclear program.

And it will just about the same outcome.

This article was posted by Steve on Saturday, December 5th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

9 Responses to “Shocker: Dem Chairman Got Kickbacks?”

  1. Liberals Demise says:

    This is getting to be an everyday occurrence with these criminals. It is quite sickening to think that they can and will police themselves.

    Capital Hill is overrun and rife with whores and whore hoppers!!

  2. JohnMG says:

    At least they got his party affiliation mentioned in the first paragraph. I’m so used to having it buried in the second-to-last sentence that I rushed right through the opening paragraph looking to see how far down the column it was hidden.


  3. proreason says:

    Our pockets are their piggybank.

    I have to confess, this kind of stuff is beginning to irritate me.

  4. Chuckk says:

    The only reason he’s being investigated is because he’s black.

    • Liberals Demise says:

      That’s like saying he took the kickbacks because he’s black!

      Lets put our thinking caps on for a moment. Can anyone here in S&L world remember a presidency in its first year that has had sooooo much scandal, nepotism, cronyism, hubbub, race baiting and social upheaval? All within 11 months of a 4 year stint? Is this what they call Hope and Change?

      Your right, Chuckk.
      He’s black!

  5. Right of the People says:

    Vote them all out, that’s the best way to stop this silliness.

  6. canary says:

    However, Thompson said he would not subpoena Desiree Rogers, the WH Social Secretary, who allegedly was behind waving the WH crashers in spite of the Republicans objections. Washington DC is running like Enron according to Senator Tom Coburn (R) of OK in public statement.

  7. Confucius says:

    Too bad Thompson isn’t a minister. The stereotype would be complete.

  8. deMontjoie says:

    Just part of the normal everyday operations that result in a Third-World Shithole of a country.

    Unfortunately, that is what we are rapidly becoming.

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