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House ethics panel dismisses cases against two Dems
The ethics panel decided not to conduct a formal investigation into Mr. Ryan’s August arrest for public intoxication and threw out the case. A judge in Lexington, Va. previously tossed out the misdemeanor case earlier this month.
The case against Mr. Meeks was far more complicated. The New York Democrats was accused of failing to report a $40,000 personal loan he took out from a Queens businessman Edul Ahmad in 2007 until after the loan was scrutinized in the media. He didn’t list the loan in his financial disclosure records, as required under House rules and federal law, until 2010.
Mr. Ahmad was ensnared in an unrelated $14 million mortgage fraud case and he pled guilty in October.
House rules explicitly state that before entering into loans from an entity other than a financial institution, members of Congress and staff must submit the terms of the loans for review and a determination from the Ethics Committee on whether the loan is acceptable under the gift rule.
The loan also must be “commercially reasonable,” with the ethics panel weighing the terms of the loan to determine if the public could attain the same type of borrowing from banks and financial institutions.
Mr. Meeks said the loan has a set rate of payments and interest, but could not produce any records to support the claim. Mr. Ahmad complicated the case by saying he made the loan to Mr. Meeks interest-free, which could amount to an improper gift to the sitting lawmaker.
After news reports about the controversy, Mr. Meeks repaid the loan in 2010.
The Ethics Committee tried to investigate the term of the loan but Mr. Ahmad refused to cooperate, according to a statement released Thursday by Reps. Jo Bonner, a Republican from Alabama, and Linda Sanchez, the chairman and ranking member.
While Mr. Meeks said he ultimately paid an interest rate of 12.5 percent, the panel said they could not prove it.
“Mr. Ahmad’s attorney has informed Committee staff that Mr. Ahmad would decline any request for a voluntary interview with the Committee, and, if subpoenaed, Mr. Ahmad would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights unless the Committee gave him immunity from criminal prosecution,” added Mr. Bonner and Ms. Sanchez.
“Unless he could provide some documentary evidence indicating that the payment to Representative Meeks was not a loan — which his attorney has stated he cannot do—it would be unreasonable for the Committee to conclude, on the basis of his testimony alone, that Representative Meeks had been untruthful to the Committee in his sworn statement that such a document had accompanied the loan,” said Mr. Bonner and Ms. Sanchez.
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About the Author
Susan Crabtree is an award-winning investigative reporter with more than 15 years of reporting experience in Washington, D.C. Her reporting about bribery, corruption and conflict-of-interest issues on Capitol Hill has led to several FBI and ethics investigations, as well as consequences for members within their caucuses and at the ballot box. Susan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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