Though scrutiny of ethics violations and conflicts of interest would seem to be at a high in Washington right now, nearly a dozen current or former lawmakers have university endowments that are financed with help from corporations seeking to win their favor, reported The New York Times.
It’s not the same thing as a direct campaign requirement — or, for that matter, a Caribbean vacation — but critics and watchdog groups told the Times it’s just another, “less visible” way for corporations to curry favor with lawmakers.
For instance, as we’ve noted, Rep. Charles Rangel, the New York Democrat and former head of the House Ways and Means Committee, had one such endowment in his honor and sent letters on Congressional letterhead to companies with business before his committee in order to solicit donations in his honor. Rangel will soon face a public trial before the House Ethics Committee.
The Times pointed out that Rangel was more explicit about linking his Congressional office to the endowments, while other lawmakers have been more careful. But they’ll still make occasional mention of the endowments — announcing their creation or thanking donors — while in office.
What’s more, such endowments have mostly remained under the ethics radar, without limits or disclosure requirements:
There is no comprehensive list of these programs, since members of Congress are not required to disclose them. Several lawmakers and universities declined requests by The New York Times and other newspapers to reveal a full list of donors or fund-raising events that the members of Congress participated in
The Times has a list of lawmakers known to have these endowments.
Also in money and politics this week:
Major Democratic fund-raiser Paul Magliochetti, founder of the defunct lobbying firm PMA Group, has been arrested and charged with making illegal campaign contributions to lawmakers. Those lawmakers, mostly Democrats, include the late John Murtha, D-Pa., who was under investigation by House ethics investigators at the time of his death.
And Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., has taken to the airwaves to denounce the ethics charges against her. Waters is accused of arranging a meeting between Treasury officials and members of UnitedOne bank — a bank that her husband has a financial stake in — prior to the bank receiving $12 million in bailout funds. The meeting “was not to ask for money,” Waters said last night on KCRW.