Written by CBS News investigative producer Laura Strickler
The House Ethics Committee is now officially digging into two Caribbean trips taken by Congressmen Charles Rangel, D-NY, Carolyn Kilpatrick D-MI, Bennie Thompson, D-MS, Donald Payne D-NJ, and Delegate Donna Christensen D-VI. The trips were sponsored by a New York based non-profit organization called the Carib News Foundation.
The November 2008 trip to St. Maarten was a three day foundation event set at the Sonesta Maho Bay Resort& Casino.
However, Peter Flaherty of the watchdog group National Legal and Policy Center says one of the largest funders of the Carib News event came from TARP recipient Citigroup Inc.
Flaherty sent photos to CBS News of banners at the conference that shows Citigroup's logo listed along with corporations such as Pfizer, AT&T, Macy's and IBM.
But who is the Carib News Foundation? It's affiliated with a Caribbean newspaper, Carib News in New York on West 36th St and the foundation is run by a man named Karl Rodney who gave money to Donna Christensen ($500) and Rangel's ($1000) campaigns. Rodney has worked with Carib News since the early 1980's.
The offices of Carib News Foundation are listed as being co-located with the publication Carib News. A receptionist at the newspaper told a CBS News reporter that Karl Rodney was unavailable for questions and out of town for the remainder of the week.
A bit more about the Foundation: the most recent IRS form publicly available for the non profit from 2007 is filled out by hand and is almost blank aside from listing its charitable "activities" as adding up to $112,573. Revenue is listed as $33,252. Its 2006 IRS form lists "attendee fees" for $41,029 but does not describe the event.
Flaherty with the National Legal and Policy Center says he attended the conference in the fall alongside members of Congress and sent a complaint to the House Ethics Committee detailing his concerns.
This is hardly the first time Carib News-affiliated businesses have funded trips for members of Congress. The Carib News Corporation funded at least $46,000 for members of Congress to the Caribbean between 2000 and 2005, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
While these earlier trips are not under scrutiny, the ethics rules changed in 2007, forbidding members of Congress from going on privately funded trips for more than two days. The trip in 2007 was for four days and the 2008 event lasted three days.
|Banner at 2008 Carib News Foundation Conference in St. Maarten|
Source: National Legal and Policy Center.