Blog — House Ethics Committee
The Hill is reporting on the ethics complaint filed by CREW against Rep. Gregory Meeks:
A government watchdog group lodged a formal ethics complaint against Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday over allegations he failed to disclose $40,000 he received from a businessman in the state.
The group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics to request an investigation into the alleged funds.
At issue are the thousands that Meeks took from businessman Ed Ahmad in 2007, which the congressman did not disclose in required financial disclosure reports. Meeks called the money a loan, and repaid it with interest after the FBI initiated an investigation into the matter.
In fact, earlier today, CREW filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) against Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), alleging he violated federal law and House rules by accepting $40,000 from a New York businessman and failing to include it on his personal financial disclosure reports (PFDs). The complaint can be found here.
CREW’s complaint is based on a series of articles by the New York Daily News (seen here and here) reporting that Rep. Meeks received $40,000 from Ed Ahmad in 2007. Although Rep. Meeks now calls the money a loan, he received the funds without offering collateral, and without an interest rate, repayment plan, or due date. Rep. Meeks failed to make any payments on the loan for 3 years and failed to include it on either his 2007 or 2008 PFDs. He repaid the money, with 12.5% interest, only after the FBI questioned Mr. Ahmad about it, and Mr. Ahmad requested repayment. Rep. Meeks said his failure to report the loan was an “oversight.”
Rep. Meeks described the loan to the Daily News as necessary “for my family obligations, etc. I was in a new house. It’s taking care of things for my family needs in the house (sic).” He continued, “You need to make sure the house is furnished. You need things.”
To repay Mr. Ahmad, Rep. Meeks took out a $59,650 home equity loan from Four Investments, an investment firm owned by Dennis Mehiel, another New York businessman and a longtime Democratic donor. Notably, Four Investments has made no other such loans in New York, but Mr. Mehiel and his wife have donated $9,600 to Rep. Meeks during the 2010 election cycle.
CREW’s complaint alleges that by knowingly failing to report the $40,000 he received from Mr. Ahmad on his PFDs in 2007 and 2008, Rep. Meeks made false statements in violation of federal law, a felony punishable by up to 5 years in jail. CREW also alleges that by taking the $40,000 Rep. Meeks violated the House gift rule, which prohibits members of Congress and staff from accepting most gifts.
Even if – as seems unlikely – the $40,000 was a loan, House rules prohibit members from accepting personal loans not made on commercially reasonable terms, which this loan clearly was not. Further, House rules indicate that members should seek Ethics Committee approval before accepting such loans, something Rep. Meeks admitted he did not do.
CREW also alleges the $59,650 home equity loan made by Four Investments to Rep. Meeks constitutes an impermissible gift because members may accept loans from financial institutions only on terms available to the general public. Since Four Investments does not make home equity loans, the loan Rep. Meeks received is obviously not widely available.
When we filed the complaint, CREW's Executive Director Melanie Sloan said:
Rep. Meeks got caught with his hand in the cookie jar and came up with an after-the-fact explanation to justify his conduct. Too bad for him, his story doesn’t hold water. The real questions now are what did Rep. Meeks do for Mr. Ahmad in return for the money and exactly what is Congress going to do about this?
It would be great if the Ethics Committee would actually try to get an answer to the question of what did Rep. Meeks do for Mr. Ahmad. But, it's rare for Congress to actually police itself, no matter how egregious the circumstances.