By Howard Koplowitz
The U.S. House of Representatives Ethics Committee said it will not look into a nearly $60,000 home equity loan received in 2010 by Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) after the Office of Congressional Ethics determined there was no reason to believe the congressman violated House rules.
But the committee said it will pursue a claim Meeks failed to disclose a $40,000 personal loan in 2007 from Richmond Hill developer Edul Ahmad in a timely manner.
“Several months ago, the House Ethics Committee dismissed the allegation in connection with a 2010 loan outright, and I believe that the second allegation will soon be dismissed as well,” Meeks said in a statement. “I have been responsive throghout the process. I have been open and frank about the facts. Because of my respect for the process, I have chosen not to comment until the deliberations have been concluded.”
The OCE made the recommendations, which were confidential, in April and the Ethics Committee unanimously voted to accept the recommendation in August.
Meeks received a $59,650 home equity loan from Four M Investments LLC in 2010 and there were allegations that the arrangement was “improper,” according to the Ethics Committee.
Meeks’ attorneys say the nearly $60,000 loan was used to pay off the $40,000 loan from 2007, but the OCE said since the 2007 arrangement had no interest rate or repayment terms, it “appears to have been a gift.”
The OCE’s policy prevents it from disclosing who made the allegations.
Two Washington, D.C., area groups that have made ethics complaints about Meeks before — Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Legal and Policy Center — said they did not make allegations about the home equity loan to the OCE.
CREW complained to the OCE about the $40,000 loan from Ahmad as being questionable.
The OCE, in a 6-0 vote, recommended the Ethics Committee dismiss the home equity loan allegations “because there is not a substantial reason to believe that Rep. Meeks received the loan in violation of House rules and standards of conduct.”
In May, the Ethics Committee unanimously voted to dismiss the complaint.
“According to the referral from OCE, although it was not a commercial loan, it was made on reasonable terms,” the committee wrote. “The loan was supported by a recorded written agreement establishing an interest rate, collateral and repayment terms.”
But the 2007 personal loan will be reviewed by the Ethics Committee.
Meeks revised his 2010 financial disclosure statement to reflect the 2007 loan, which did not appear on his statement for that year.
“If Representative Meeks failed to properly disclose the $40,000 gift on his Calendar Year 2007, 2008 and 2009 financial disclosure statements, he may have violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law,” the OCE wrote.
The National Legal and Policy Center, which describes itself as a Republican-leaning organization, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission late last month that accused Meeks of voiding a $5,000 check to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that he had written and had been cashed years earlier.
Meeks made three $5,000 donations to the DCCC in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
Meeks’s Build America PAC voided a $5,000 check to the DCCC on Jan. 3, the National Legal group said, which inflated the PAC’s cash-on-hand.
“How do you void a check many years after it cleared?” the group said in its complaint. “A check that was deposited many years prior cannot be voided as a stale, dated check. Simply by reviewing the DCCC’s FEC filings, anyone can see that the $5,000 checks from Build America PAC in 2002, 2003 and 2004 were deposited shortly after they were recorded as written. Nothing suggests the checks were not received. Nothing suggests that the donations were in any way refunded to Build America PAC.”
Meeks claimed the National Legal and Policy Center had no credibility because it is a partisan organization.
The NLPC based its contentions on reports from the New York Post.
“Unfortunately, the National Legal and Policy Center, working in an openly stated alliance with the New York Post, has made accusation after accusation with the deliberate attempt to tarnish my reputation, promote sensationalized journalism, sow distrust among my constituents of my conduct in office, and divert both the public and me from the pressing issues at hand,” Meeks said. “I have not and will not let these provocations get in the way of the work I do on behalf of my constituents. I am treating the most recent complaint filed by the NLPC in the same manner I have treated their other complaints; with due diligence all matter will be addressed.”
Ken Boehm, president of the group, said the organization files complaints against members of both parties.
“We’re conservative, but we stand by the fact we’ve gone after both Republicans and Democrats,” he said.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.