By Howard Koplowitz
A political action committee tied to U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica), who has been the target of a federal investigation since the beginning of 2010, spent six times as much on legal fees compared to 2009, according to Federal Election Commission documents.
Meeks’ Build America PAC paid $9,826.95 in legal fees last year to the Washington, D.C.-based office of Perkins Coie LLC, a multinational, all-purpose law firm.
Meeks could not be reached for comment.
Ken Boehm, chairman of the Virginia-based National Legal Policy Center, said using PAC money to pay for legal bills violates House rules and federal law, although there are usually fines levied instead of criminal sanctions.
“His stuff will not stand up to scrutiny,” Boehm said, referring to the Queens lawmaker.
Boehm said the NLPC is waiting for more information, including Meeks’ latest financial disclosure due Jan. 15, until it makes a formal complaint against the congressman.
While the NLPC describes itself as a nonpartisan organization, besides Meeks it has targeted U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Harlem), the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson — all black Democrats — in recent years.
Meeks also used his campaign committee to pay legal fees June 28, when he paid Manhattan-based law firm Dorsey & Whitney $15,000.
In 2009, before Meeks was the target of investigators looking at a nonprofit he set up with state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina, Build America spent only $1,637 in legal fees to Perkins Coie, which has two offices in China and 15 American cities.
Federal prosecutors are investigating New Direction, the nonprofit he founded with Smith, Boehm said. Records showed that only a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of dollars received by New Direction actually made its way to Katrina victims.
Patsy Simmons, treasurer of the Build America PAC, could not be reached for comment on the legal fees.
The PAC’s address is listed as Suite 531 at 135-01 Jamaica Ave. The PAC pays about $325 in rent to BLDG Management, which could not be reached to verify a New York Post report that said Suite 531 does not exist in the building.
The Jamaica building also houses Meeks’ district office.
During Meeks’ first congressional run in 2002, he did not spend any money on legal fees, according to campaign finance records.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.