2010-06-11 / Top Stories

Meeks: Axe House Ethics Committee

By Howard Schwach

Under investigation by several federal and state grand juries and faced with a probe in the House of Representatives, Congressman Gregory Meeks, who represents the eastern end of the Rockaway peninsula, has proposed a bill that would put a muzzle on the independent ethics watchdogs that Democrats unleashed after taking over the House.

About 20 lawmakers signed onto Meeks’ bill, which would rein in the Office of Congressional Ethics.

All of those who co-sponsored Meeks’ bill are members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The bill would make it harder, if not impossible, to open new investigations, published reports in the daily papers say.

It would also stop the office, which has no power to sanction lawmakers, but serves an advisory role, from publicizing its referrals to the more powerful House Ethics Committee.

The citizen-run ethics panel has spotlighted the alleged misdeeds of at least eight Congressional Black Caucus members, including Charles Rangel, in recent months.

Meeks has attracted investigators ever since a federal probe was launched over what became of the money that went into a nonprofit, New Direction Community Development Corporation, and its spin-off Hurricane Katrina charity, NOAH-F.

Neither Meeks nor State Senator Malcolm Smith, who also represents Rockaway, has been able to come up with a reasonable explanation for the missing funds over the past few months since questions were first raised.

A federal grand jury subpoenaed the two legislators in April demanding records of their involvement with the non-profit as well as with the failed Aqueduct Racino project.

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