Rangel: Not a Subject of Justice’s Probe of Caribbean Trips

Posted November 30, 2010 at 6:24pm

Rep. Charlie Rangel confirmed Tuesday that he is not a target of the Justice Department’s investigation into two privately sponsored Caribbean trips that have previously drawn scrutiny from the House ethics committee.

“Congressman Rangel was not a subject of the DOJ investigation, and he has fully cooperated with officials at the department,” the New York Democrat’s office said in a written statement provided to Roll Call.

The Justice Department’s investigation was publicly disclosed Tuesday in a series of documents released by the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct as the House considers whether to censure Rangel for his wrongdoing in a series of unrelated incidents. A Justice Department spokeswoman would not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation of the Caribbean trips.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have taken annual Caribbean trips sponsored by the New York-based Carib News Foundation for several years. The ethics committee ruled in February that the 2007 and 2008 trips were actually paid for by private companies and violated House rules on corporate-funded travel.

At the time, the ethics committee exonerated five of the six Members it investigated — Democratic Reps. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (Mich.), Bennie Thompson (Miss.), Donald Payne (N.J.), Yvette Clarke (N.Y.) and Del. Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands) —  while it admonished Rangel, citing his staff’s knowledge that the trips were funded by corporations. The Members were required to repay the costs of the trips.

The ethics committee also announced in February that it had referred information related to Carib News Foundation employees Karl Rodney, Patricia Lewis and Faye Rodney to the Justice Department for further review. The committee asserted that the trio submitted “false or misleading information to the Committee during its pre-travel review of the 2007 and 2008 conferences and again when providing sworn testimony to the Investigative Subcommittee.”

The statement, released Tuesday by Rangel’s office, noted that “At the completion of the Carib News ethics investigation, Mr. and Mrs. Rodney were referred to DOJ for further investigation.”

The documents published Tuesday by the ethics committee included a Sept. 7 letter from ethics Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and ranking member Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) that said Rangel’s defense attorney had inquired about using campaign funds to pay legal expenses connected to a Justice Department investigation of the trips.

The letter stated that attorney Phu Huynh of the firm Oldaker, Biden & Belair asked in August whether Rangel could pay for “certain legal expenses” for himself, as well as “current and former members of his personal staff and Ways and Means Committee staff in connection with an investigation by the Department of Justice of privately-sponsored officially-connected travel by Members of Congress, including Representative Rangel, to two conferences hosted by Carib News/Carib News Foundation during 2007 and 2008.”

Correspondence from Huynh was not released by the ethics committee.