Monday, June 05, 2006

Rangel's Cuban "culture of corruption"

New York Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel admits he violated House ethics rules by traveling to Cuba to meet with Fidel Castro:
Four years after taking a privately funded trip to Cuba with his wife and son, Rep. Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., has acknowledged a violation of House ethics rules and reimbursed two of the sponsors.

After inquiries from the Center for Public Integrity, Rangel amended his travel disclosure form for the April 2002 trip and reimbursed the Cuban government and New York grocery magnate John Catsimatidis for $1,922 in expenses incurred by the congressman's son Steven. House rules allow private sponsors of lawmakers' trips to cover only the costs of one accompanying relative — in Rangel's case, his wife Alma.

In an April 27 letter to the House Office of the Clerk, Rangel wrote, "I was recently advised that under the rules of the House [his son's] expenses were not allowable for payment by the trip's sponsors … Therefore I am filing an amended travel disclosure report reflecting my reimbursement to the sponsors for the relevant amounts."

He wrote a similar letter to the chief of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C., which represents the Cuban government. Rangel's amendment and reimbursements are the latest developments in a Center investigation into the trip to Havana, which was designed to raise awareness about endangered birds. As it turns out, for Rangel it was also about meeting with President Fidel Castro to discuss the uneasy U.S.-Cuba relationship.

Go read the whole thing. And here's an interesting fact:

Over a 5½-year period ending in 2005, members of Congress and their aides took at least 23,000 trips — valued at almost $50 million — financed by private sponsors, many of them corporations, trade associations and nonprofit groups with business on Capitol Hill. ...

According to the analysis, both Republicans and Democrats traveled frequently: Of the two dozen congressional offices on which trip sponsors spent the most money, 15 were occupied by Republicans. Of the 25 individual lawmakers who each accepted more than $120,000 worth of travel for themselves, 17 were Democrats.

Attention, Nancy Pelosi: Here's your "culture of corruption"!


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