Report: Meeks Had Strong Ties To Texas Scammer
Congressman Gregory Meeks, who represents the eastern end of the Rockaway peninsula in the House of Representatives, has strong personal and financial ties to a flamboyant millionaire whose offshore banking and sports empire turned out to be a giant racket, according to published reports in major newspapers that include the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.
Texas businessman R. Allan Stanford's investment and banking empire was ordered seized last week by a federal judge.
In a civil complaint filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Stanford and two of his associates were charged with fraudulently selling $8 billion in highyield certificates of deposit in a scheme that stretched from Texas to the Caribbean.
"We are alleging a fraud of shocking magnitude that has spread its tentacles throughout the world," said Rose Romero, the regional director of the SEC's Dallas office.
Those tentacles have also spread to the political marketplace, reports charge.
According to a published report, Stanford and his affiliated companies have spent more than $5 million on lobbying fees since 2000 and have supplied $2 million in campaign contributions and Caribbean trips to a number of lawmakers during the same time period.
Federal reports say that at least some of that money went to Meeks, a member of the House Financial Services subcommittee dealing with offshore banks. Those reports note that Meeks received an estimated $17,600 from a Stanford fundraiser held in the Virgin Islands in July of 2008.
From 2003 to 2006, Meeks and his wife traveled to the Caribbean each January on trips paid for by the Inter-American Economic Corporation, records show. That group was heavily backed and funded by Stanford.
The first trip was for "fact-finding" and subsequent trips were for a "business roundtable," records show. All of the trips included hotel and meal charges that were paid for the couple, often in excess of $2,000 or $3,000. On at least one occasion, the couple travelled on Stanford's private jet.
Meeks was one of three Democrats who supported the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA), the free trade bill among the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Insiders says that the bill greatly helped bankers such as Stanford, who, sources say, moved his business to the Caribbean in order to evade American taxes and to shield his illegal businesses from officials in this country.
Meeks has become a consummate and high-profile fundraiser.
He was excoriated recently for holding a Super Bowl fundraiser at the same time his colleagues in Congress were taking testimony on an auto industry bailout.
Meeks' "Build America PAC" raised more than $1 million in 2008, much of it from financial firms that include Stanford's, Citigroup, UPS and AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, according to opensecrets.org, the website of Center for Responsive Politics.
MapLight.org, a website that "illuminates the connection between money and politics," reported that 96 percent of Meeks' contributions last year came from outside his district and that 83 percent came from outside New York State.
Meeks told the Wall Street Journal, "for me, I have a vested interest in the Caribbean," noting that he is a member of the Caribbean Caucus and that he represents a district in Queens with a large population of immigrants from the islands.
"I can just say that Allen Stanford has always treated me fair and decently and above board," Meeks added in a statement to the Journal. "I have no idea what the investigation is about, but if I was asked about Allen Stanford, I would say that he was a guy who was wealthy, but was also helping people."
Meeks has also said locally that he travels to the Caribbean in order to increase import businesses at John F. Kennedy Airport, which is also in his district.
On Wednesday, Ralph Janvey, the receiver for Stanford's assets, wrote a letter to more than 50 current and past members of Congress, asking them to hand over any contributions from Stanford, or from others charged with fraud.
Among those on the list are Congressman Meeks, former Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Charles Schumer.
Meeks' office declined to comment on whether or not he would return the requested money.