| home | WatchList
Some of our Honorable Congressmen and Senators are probably going through some sleepless nights, and making sure they have their defense lawyers on speed dial. Let's check up on a few potential BadBoys. But remember, they are innocent until proven guilty. After all, this is still America!
The Honorable Heath Shuler (Democrat-North Carolina) was cleared by the House Ethics Committee in November 2009, concluding that his actions in a land deal involving the Tennessee Valley Authority "were not improper in any way and did not violate House rules."
The Honorable Sam Graves (Republican-Missouri). Graves in 2009 invited a friend and neighbor Brooks Hurst to testify before a congressional hearing on renewable fuels, without mentioning that his wife and Hurst are investors together in renewable fuels plants in Missouri. Graves' financial disclosure form showed that his wife's investment in Golden Triangle Energy Cooperative produced between $15,000 and $50,000 in income in 2006, and $5,000 to $15,000 in 2007 and 2008. In September 2009, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) found no evidence that Graves had broken any rules.
Update: October 30: House Ethics Committee dismissed complaint against Graves.
Honorable Kent Conrad (Democrat-North Dakota) and the Honorable Chris Dodd (Democrat-Connecticut), along with two former Cabinet members (Donna Shala and Alphonso Jackson) and a former UN ambassador (Richard Holbrooke) were given special VIP loans from Countrywide. James Johnson, who had been advising Barack Obama, also received below-market rates from Countrywide. Dodd borrowed $506,000 to refinance his Washington townhouse, and $275,042 to refinance a home in Connecticut. Conrad borrowed $1.07 million to refinance a vacation home in Delaware. Dodd and Conrad were "FOA"s -- Friends of Angelo," (Countrywide chairman Angelo Mozilo). Both Dodd and Conrad said they didn't seek any special favors. Countrywide is reportedly under FBI investigation for alleged securities fraud. Mozilo dumped $474 million in Countrywide stock between 2004 and 2007; he said it was part of his retirement planning. What's the problem? Well, Senate Ethics rules prohibit employees (and Senators) from receiving gifts of more than $100 from private firms that employ lobbyists. Check out the Conde Nast Portfolio story by Dan Golden. Update: August 8, 2009: The Senate Ethics Committee dismissed complaints against the two that they had used their positions of power to obtain special considerations from Countrywide. There was "no substantial credible evidence" according to a year-long investigation. Conrad and Dodd, however, were admonished that they "should have exercised more vigilance " in their dealings with Countrywide.
The Honorable John Conyers' (Democrat-Michigan) wife, Monica Conyers, president pro-tempore of the Detroit City Council plead guilty to a federal bribery charge and could face jail time. She admitted taking thousands of dollars of cash in exchange for a favorable vote in a $1.2 billion city sludge-hauling contract. She is free on bond but could receive up to five years in prison.
The Honorable Peter Visclosky (Democrat-Indiana). A federal grand jury has issued subpoenas to Visclosky, a Democrat from Indiana, and members of his staff, in its ongoing investigation of the defunct lobbying firm PMA. Visclosky, along with the Honorable John Murtha (D-PA) and the Honorable Jim Moran (D-VA). Visclosky also temporarily gave up the chairmanship of the House Energy and Water Appropriations subcommittee. PMA hired several former Visclosky aides. Visclosky received more than $100,000 from donors tied to PMA in 2006-2008, and has dished out more than $23 million in earmarks to PMA clients in 2008. Visclosky says he'll cooperate fully in the investigation. Stay tuned.
The Honorable Maxine Waters (Democrat-California). As a senior member of the congressional committee that oversees banking legislation, she is now under scrutiny over the $12 million in bailout money received by OneUnited Bank. Waters' husband, Sidney Williams, served on the bank's board and held stock in the bank. Waters vehemently denies that there was a conflict of interest, or that she or her husband somehow gained from her congressional activities. Further, she claims that she had fully disclosed her husband's ties to the bank. Melanie Sloan, executive director of the watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, had a different take: Waters' behavior was "inappropriate and certainly has the appearance of impropriety, even if it doesn't rise to the level of an actual conflict of interest under House rules."
Update: The House Ethics Committee voted on October 30, 2009, to expand its investigation into whether Waters violated congressional rules by allegedly helping steer federal money to a bank owned in part by her husband.
Update: July 30, 2010: The House is about to accuse Waters of at least one ethics violation in efforts to help a bank with ties to her husband. Stay tuned.
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi (Democrat-California). Nearly $100,000 went from Pelosi's political action committee to her husband's real estate and investment firm during the past decade. Just last year, Pelosi supported efforts to ban such action of paying a spouse with political donations. Her husband's firm, Financial Leasing Services, Inc., received $99,000 in rent, utilities, and accounting fees from Pelosi's Pac for the Future. And guess what? Since her husband took over as the treasurer of the PAC in 2007, payments to her husband's firm have quadrupled.
Is this just a regular business expenditure? Does it pass the smell test? How tightly are you holding your nose?
The Honorable David Stockman. Yeah, this reaches way back, but since he was a Congressman at one time (Republican- Michigan), we'll include him. He was a hot-shot congressman, then became Reagan's budget director. But now, as former CEO of Collins & Aikman, an auto parts manufacturer, Stockman and three others will stand trial next May for defrauding investors. They are accused of issuing false financial reports and engaging in a phony rebate scheme. Collins & Aikman sought bankruptcy protection in 2005.
Honorable Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (Democrat-Michigan) barely survived a primary challenge from two relatively unknowns, despite having a bulging campaign chest. The problem? Perhaps fall out from her son, Kwame, the badboy mayor of Detroit. Facing a raft of criminal charges, His Honor was tossed into jail for violating the conditions for bond in a perjury case; he went off to Canada on business, and failed to tell the judge.
"I ran in, made a presentation, and ran back," says His Honor, about his trip across the border. The judge, however, was not amused. Stay tuned.
Honorable Laura Richardson (Democrat-California), whose home was recently sold in a foreclosure, has had two other houses that have gone into default a total of 6 times. During this time, Richardson used $177,500 to finance her campaigns for the House and for the California Assembly. Mortgage lenders were not amused. Her opponent calls her a "national disgrace."
Update: October 30, 2009: The House Ethics Committee voted to expand its probe into alleged irregularities.
Honorable Pete V. Domenici (Republican-New Mexico) received a "Public Letter of Qualified Admonition" from the Senate Ethics Committee. Domenici in October 2006 had called U. S. District Attorney David C. Iglesias, inquiring about the timing of indictments in a pending New Mexico federal grand jury investigation into allegations of public corruption relating to the construction of the Bernalillo County courthouse. The Ethics Committee found "no substantial evidence to determine that you attempted to improperly influence an ongoing investigation." But "The Committee does find that you should have known that a federal prosecutor receiving such a telephone call, coupled with an approaching election which may have turned on or been influenced by the prosecutor's actions in the corruption matter, created an appearance of impropriety that reflected unfavorable on the Senate."
Honorable Debbie Stabenow (Democrat-Michigan). Stabenow's husband, Thomas Athans, age 46, found a prostitute over the Internet, me her at a Residence Inn, paid her $150 for oral sex, and wouldn't you know it, got caught in a police sting. Athans, well-known in media circles as founder of liberal talk radio networks, including Air America and Talk USA, admitted paying the prostitute, but he wasn't arrested or charged. If you are Stabenow, what can you say? "This is very disturbing and serious, obviously it's a deeply difficult and personal matter," she said through a written release.
Honorable Mark Deli Siljander (Republican-Michigan), who was a Congressman from 19081-1986, was indicted on January 15, 2008, on charges of working for an alleged terrorist fundraising scheme. A 42-count indictment was unsealed accusing the Islamic American Relief Agency of paying Siljander $50,000 for lobbying. It, allegedly, was money that turned out to be stolen from the U.S. Agency for International Development. According to his attorney, Siljander "vehemently denies the allegations in the indictment." Stay tuned.
An aide to the Honorable Maria Cantwell (Democrat-Washington) charged in federal court after a sting operation. He allegedly solicited sex from what he thought was a 13-year-old boy. James Michael McHaney, 28, was arrested on Friday, Nov. 30, 2007. The story was first carried on the Smoking Gun website.
The Honorable Richard Pombo (Republican-California) is no longer in office, but in October 2007 he got slapped with a fine from the FEC for his wife's personal use of nearly $19,000 in campaign funds in his 2004 campaign. An audit showed that Annette Pombo issued herself checks for more than $58,000 in 2003 and $18,752 in 2004, which the FEC said was for personal use. And that's a no-no. Pombo's brother was the treasurer of the campaign, but the Mrs. controlled the campaign checkbook. Stay tuned.
The Honorable Jerry Weller (Republican-Illinois) decided he will not seek re-election in 2008. He was under increasing pressure because of alleged ethics violations. The Chicago Tribune in early September 2007 reported land deals that Weller had conducted in Nicaragua that hadn't been reported on his 2005 financial disclosure form. There's also concern about his wife's charity being excluded from his current financial disclosure form. Weller's wife, Zury Rios de Weller, is a member of the Guatemalan Congress. Her not-for-profit, to held children in Guatemala, has the congressman's mother and business partner on the board. Weller claims he has no knowledge of his wife's finances, and thus hasn't reported them. The Chicago Tribune describes Mrs. Weller as the daughter of a reportedly wealthy former Guatemala dictator. Stay tuned.
The Honorable Bob Filner (Democrat-California) was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery for allegedly pushing an airline employee over a baggage dispute. This happened at Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C., Aug. 19, 2007. Police report says: Filner "attempted to enter an area authorized for airline employees only" and "pushed aside the employee's outstretched arm and refused to leave the area when asked by an airline employee." If convicted, Filner could get 12 months in jail and up to $2,500 fine under Virginia law. Filner's office says the story is "factually incorrect--and the charges are ridiculous."
Update, Nov. 27: Filner settled with Loudon County, Virginia, prosecutors. No more misdemeanor assault and battery charges, but simple trespass and a $100 fine. It was an Alford plea: he doesn't admit guilt, but agrees there's enough evidence to convict.
Getting irritated over baggage at a crowded airport--nah, no one ever does that.
The Honorable Tom Feeney (Republican-Florida) has been asked about his dealings with Jack Abramoff, as part of its ongoing investigation into the activities of the disgraced, convicted lobbyist.
"Rep. Feeney considers this an embarrassing episode in his 17-year career as an elected official and an expensive lesson for him as a public servant," said an official statement from Feeney's office. Feeney was one of three House members who accompanied Abramoff to Scotland on expensive golfing trips. Stay tuned.
The Honorable Joe Baca (Democrat-California), chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus allegedly called his colleague, the Honorable Loretta Sanchez a "whore." No crime, but certainly not nice to say. Sanchez, her sister, the Honorable Linda Sanchez and the Honorable Hilda Solis, who also said she'd been insulted by Baca, quit the CHC. Baca isn't about to apologize, but explains that his chief of staff and lots of women on CHC are women, and they're great. Stay tuned; this ain't over yet.
The Honorable Jim Kolbe (Republican-Arizona), is under investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office in Phoenix, concerning a 1996 camping trip that included Kolbe and two 17-year-old boys who had participated in the congressional page program. Kolbe is the only openly gay Republican member of Congress. Kolbe's office said: "there's absolutely no basis and no truth" to allegations of inappropriate behavior and noted that the trip included five Kolbe aides, two former pages, and Kolbe's sister. Stay tuned.
The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert (Republican-Illinois), the former Speaker of the House, made a profit of $2 million in 2005 on a sale of land that was 5-1/2 miles away from a federal highway project that he helped finance through a federal earmark. In the summer of 2005, Hastert personally intervened during the House and Senate negotiations over the huge transportation and infrastructure bill (the one that gave us the $250 million "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska), and secured two separate earmarks, a $152 million deal to help build the "Prairie Parkway" and a $55 million deal for an interchange 5-1/2 miles from his home. Six months later, the Little Rock Trust, a business set up by Hastert and his pals, sold part of Hastert's property, netting him $2 million in profit. Smart business deal? or sweetheart deal, made sweeter by taxpayers' money. We'll see. Hastert, of course, denies any wrongdoing.
Then of course, there's the little problem of the Mark Foley scandal and Hastert's handling of it. Tough times for the Speaker.
The Honorable Gary Miller (Republican-California) obtained $1.28 million in funding from the same 2005 housing bill for street improvements near a planned residential and commercial development that he co-owns with his top campaign contributor. Miller says he was just securing funds badly needed for his district back home, and besides, the improvements were a mile away from his development, and the town officials in Diamond Bar had designated that improvement as a top priority.
Update, Feb. 4, 2007: FBI is now investigating the charges against Miller for improperly using an unusual tax provision to avoid paying capital gains taxes on profits from land sales in California. The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, D.C., charged that Miller failed to pay capital gains tax on the 2002 sale of 165 acres in Monrovia, California. Stay tuned.
The Honorable Harry Reid (Democrat-Nevada), the Senate Majority leader accepted free ringside seats from the Nevada Athletic Commission to three boxing matches while the state was trying to influence him on federal boxing regulation. Reid, a former boxer and boxing judge himself, defended his actions. "Anyone from Nevada would say I'm glad he is there taking care of the state's number one businesses." Senate ethics rules warn against taking such gifts, particularly on multiple occasions. Senate Ethics manual: "Senators and Senate staff should be wary of accepting any gift where it appears that the gift is motivated by a desire to reward, influence, or elicit favorable official action."
By contrast, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) insisted on paying $1,400 for the tickets he shared with Reid in a 2004 championship fight. "I'm not a Goody Two Shoes. I just feel these events are nothing I did wrong," said Reid.
In another development: Reid announced on October 16, 2006, that he would amend four years of ethics reports to Congress to more fully explain the real estate deal that allowed him to collect $1.1 million in 2004. He will also personally reimburse his campaign fund $3,300 that it paid for Christmas bonuses for support staff at Ritz-Carlton hotel in Washington, where Reid lives.
The Honorable Jerry Lewis (Republican-California), former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, is being investigated by the Justice Department for his dealings with a lobbying firm that hired his former staff members. The U.S. Attorney's office in Los Angeles on May 10, 2006, issued subpoenas in an investigation into the relationship between Lewis and Washington lobbyists who were linked with BadBoy Duke Cunningham. Lewis said he wasn't aware of any investigation. "For goodness sake, why would they be doing that?" Lewis asked. We'll see.
In another development, it was revealed on June 8, 2006, that Lewis' stepdaughter, Julia Willis-Leon of Las Vegas, was paid more than $40,000 since early 2005 by a political action committee funded in most part by donations from a lobbyist who was Lewis' former longtime aide, Letitia White. By the way, Julia's mom is Arlene Willis, who is Congressman Lewis' staff director. Cozy, ain't it. Here's what Lewis says: "I have always made every effort to meet the highest ethical standards in all aspects of my congressional work. I am confident that any review of my work will confirm this." Check out other cozy family relationships in All in the Family.
Update: Speaking of cozy. Jeffrey Shockey, former aide to Lewis, worked as a lobbyist, and now, at 40, has returned to work for Lewis as deputy chief of staff of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. His old lobbying firm, which has plenty of business before the Appropriations Committee, gave Shockey a nice send off gift of $2 million in severance pay; and he got the money while working as a congressional aide. This highly unusual and generous send off even had seasoned lobbyists shaking their heads in disbelief.
The Honorable Allan Mollohan (Democrat-West Virginia). The Wall Street Journal reports that federal prosecutors are investigating this 12-term Congressman and Republican leaders are calling for him to step down from the House Ethics Committee. The allegations charge that Mollohan, by using congressional earmarks, provided funding for certain West Virginia non-profits, and that he was able to profit personally. Mollohan's personal financial disclosure forms show that he went from income-producing assets of $179-$562K in 2000 to $6.3 million to $24.9 million in 2004. Mollohan says the charges are "spurious." On April 21, 2006, Mollohan stepped down, temporarily he says, from his post on the Ethics Committee.
Here's what Mollohan wrote to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.): "It has become clear that the unprecedented campaign that has been launched against me will continue to be at least as relentless as it has been to date. I do not want these baseless allegations to divert attention from the important work that the House Ethics Committee must undertake in the remainder of this Congress."
Update (June 14, 2006): Mollohan acknowledged that he misstated more than a dozen transactions on his financial disclosure form. He said he discovered "a limited number of inadvertent errors" on his public reporting forms from 1999 through 2004.
Update (Aug. 4, 2006): Mollohan's Republican opponent for the seat in Congress, Chris Wakim, is having a little problem with resume padding. In campaign literature, he promoted himself as a Persian Gulf War veteran. Wakim later admitted he never served in the Persian Gulf, but served as a captain stationed in Massachusetts. He also fudged on his master's degree, saying it was in public policy from Harvard, when it was in liberal arts, with a concentration in government. Wakim claimed that efforts by Mollohan to contend that Wakim had exaggerated his achievements are "dishonorable and underhanded." Maybe Wakim, if he wins, will want a seat on the Ethics Committee.
Sources: John R. Wilke, "Appropriations, Local Ties and Now a Probe of a Legislator," Wall Street Journal, April 7, 2006, A1; Thomas Edsall, "Republicans Say Mollohan Should Quit Ethics Post," Washington Post, April 8, 2006, A11. Jonathan Weisman, "Democrat Leaves Ethics Panel," Washington Post, April 22, 2006, A1. "The Doolittles' Rich Deal," Washington Post, April 21, 2006, A22. Peter Pae, "Lewis Surfaces in Probe of Cunningham," Los Angeles Times, May 11, 2006, A1. John Solomon, "Reid Accepted Free Boxing Tickets While a Related Bill Was Pending," Washington Post, May 30, 2006, A3. Charles R. Babcock and Alice Crites, "Stepdaughter of Lawmaker Got Money from PAC," Washington Post, June 8, 2004, A4. Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, "Rep. Mollohan Admits Errors in Disclosure," Washington Post, June 14, 2006, A6. Jonathan Weisman, "Lawmakers' Profits are Scrutinized," Washington Post, June 22, 2006, A1; Jonathan Weisman and Jeffrey Birnbaum, "Lawmaker Criticized for PAC Fees Paid to Wife," Washington Post, Jul1 11, 2006, A1. Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, "$2 Million Payment to Former Lobbyist Raises Eyebrows," Washington Post, July 10, 2006, D1. Jeffrey Birnbaum and Zachary Goldfarb, "Challenger to Mollohan Revises Biographical Data on Education, War Service," Washington Post, August 4, 2006, A2. "Ex-Pages' Trip with Rep. Kolbe Examined," Washington Post, Oct. 14, 2006, A4. Jonathan Weisman, "Reid to Amend Ethics Reports to Fully Account for Land Deal," Washington Post, October 17, 2006, A4; Carol D. Leonnig and R. Jeffrey Smith, "Homes Raided in Rep. Weldon Influence Probe," Washington Post, October 17, 2006, A1. Brian Haynes, Molly Ball, David Kihara, and Francis McCabe, "Gubernatorial Candidate: Gibbons: I Walked Away," Las Vegas Review Journal, Oct. 19, 2006. Al Kamen, "The Waitress, the Maid, and the Candidate," Washington Post, October 27, 2006, A21. "Jim Gibbons" Washington Post, Nov. 9, 2006, election roundup, A42. Jennifer Steinhauer and Philip Shenon, "FBI Investigating Complaint Against California Lawmaker," New York Times, Feb. 4, 2007. Brendan Riley, "Nevada Governor Facing FBI Probe of Classified Federal Contracts," AP, February 15, 2007. Anita Kuma, "FBI Asking Tom Feeney About Trip With Abramoff," St. Petersburg Times, April 24, 2007. R. A. Dillon, "VECO Scandal Entangling Ted Stevens," Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, June 8, 2007; Paul Kane, "Senator Stevens Told to Keep Records for Graft Probe," Washington Post, June 7, 2007, A1. Jonathan Mummolo, "Lawmaker is Accused of Assault at Dulles," Washington Post, Aug. 21, 2007, B1. Jim Tankersley, "Board Complicates Weller Asset Claim," Chicago Tribune, Sept. 15, 2007; Andrew Zajac, Oscar Avila, and Jim Tankersley, "Inside Rep. Weller's Nicaragua Land Deal," Chicago Tribune, Sept. 7, 2007. Dan Eggen, "Alaska Senators Calls Were Secretly Taped," Washington Post, Sept. 21, 2007. "Scandal Watch," Washington Post, Oct. 11, 2007. Fredereka Schouten and David Jackson, "Edwards' Political Future in Doubt after Admitting Affair," USA Today, August 8, 2008. "Trial Set for former Collins & Aikman CEO Stockman, Others," Chicago Tribune, August 26, 2008. Jennifer Haberkorn, "Pelosi Paid Husband with PAC Funds," Washington Times, October 1, 2008. Richard Simon, "Rep. Maxine Waters Defends Her Work for Minority-owned Banks," Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2009. Henry C. Jackson, "Visclosky's Ties to Troubled PMA Run Deep, USA Today, Feb. 28, 2009. Zachary Goldfarb and Ben Pershing, "Ethics Committee Clears Dodd, Conrad," Washington Post, August 8, 2009. Jennifer Yachim and Paul Singer, "Ethics Panel Investigates Waters, Graves and Jackson," Roll Call, Sept. 16, 2009.