June 25, 2009 – 2:09 p.m.
The House ethics committee said Thursday it has opened an investigation of trips by four House members and a delegate, including Ways and Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel , to conferences in the Caribbean that a conservative group says violated House rules.
The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct announced creation of an investigative subcommittee to look into the travel of Rangel, D-N.Y., Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick , D-Mich, Donald M. Payne , D-N.J., Bennie Thompson , D-Miss., and Del. Donna M.C. Christensen , D-V.I.
Under a 2007 rules change put in place then by a new Democratic majority, House members cannot take trips lasting more than two days that are paid for by lobbyists or by entities other than colleges and universities that employ lobbyists.
The lawmakers under scrutiny traveled to the Sonesta Maho Bay Resort & Casino in St. Maarten for a three-day conference in November 2008 that was sponsored by the New York Carib News Foundation, which is affiliated with a newspaper aimed at New York’s Caribbean immigrant community. But the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative group, said the conference was also underwritten by several companies including Pfizer Inc., Citigroup Inc. and IBM Corp.
The ethics committee also is looking into a trip by the same lawmakers to Antigua and Barbuda for a four-day conference in November 2007 sponsored by the Carib News Foundation.
The investigative subcommittee will be led by G.K. Butterfield , D-N.C., and the top-ranking Republican will be J. Gresham Barrett of South Carolina. The other members are Brad Miller , D-N.C., and Mike Simpson , R-Idaho.
Another ethics subcommittee was set up last year to look into Rangel’s personal finances.