Tags: rangel | caucus | trips

Rangel's Trips to Caribbean Said Unethical

Wednesday, 17 Dec 2008 10:53 AM

By Dave Eberhart

Repeated trips by Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., and several other members of the Congressional Black Caucus to various luxury Caribbean destinations violated House ethics rules, charges a report in The Hill.

The rules prohibit companies or organizations that employ or retain a registered lobbyist from paying for extended trips - either directly or indirectly, according to the report.

However, American Airlines’ representatives told The Hill that the company provided tickets for Rangel and five other members of Congress to fly from their homes to St. Martin, a tropical island in the Caribbean.

The American Airlines donation of tickets for members to use for a specific trip is a clear violation of House ethics rules governing travel, concludes the Hill report. The rub: American Airlines spent more than $6 million on lobbying in the first three-quarters of this year.

“We provided in-kind support,” said Martha Pantin, a spokeswoman for American Airlines. “It was sometime in the fall when the tickets were provided to the foundation. We’ve done this for the past couple of years.”

This year’s trip took place Nov. 6 to 9 to the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort in St. Martin.

The ethics committee approved the Caribbean trip, as it has done for several years.

The New York Carib News Foundation, a nonprofit, is listed on members’ travel disclosure documents as the trip’s sole sponsor.

Furthermore, the foundation officially certified in forms that it “has not accepted from any other source funds earmarked directly or indirectly to finance any aspect of the trip.”

In an interview last week, Rangel said the ethics committee cleared the trip, so he thought it was approved to participate.

When The Hill informed Rangel about American Airlines’ donation of tickets and the New York Carib News’ apparently erroneous form, he countered that the ethics committee had the duty to determine whether trip sponsors were making false statements to the panel.

“That’s for the ethics committee to investigate,” he said. “You cannot expect members of Congress to figure out how they go about doing it.”

Besides Rangel, five other caucus members traveled to St. Martin last month. The others are: Democratic Reps. Donald Payne (N.J.), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Carolyn Kilpatrick (Mich.), Bennie Thompson (Miss.), and Donna Christensen (Virgin Islands). Only Jackson Lee said she paid her own way for the trip this year, according to The Hill.

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