CaribWorldNews, WASHINGTON, D.C., Weds. June 3, 2009: A Virginia-based policy center says it has been asked by the House Ethics Committee to provide `documented violations of House Rules that prohibit corporate sponsorship of travel and hospitality` relating to the Carib News Foundation business conference in the Caribbean.
The National Legal and Policy Center`s Peter Flaherty, said the organization has been asked `to provide photographs, audio recordings and other materials related to a trip to the sunny Caribbean island of St. Maarten in November 2008 by the following five House members: Charles Rangel, (D-NY), Donald Payne, (D-NJ), Sheila Jackson-Lee, (D-TX), Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, (D-MI),Bennie Thompson, (D-MS) and Donna Christensen, (D-VI).`
Flaherty said on his website, he provided the materials on May 29 along with a formal request for an investigation into the Carib News Foundation trip that was funded by `lead sponsor` Citigroup, a major recipient of bailout funds.
Citigroup, through then New York manager, Michael Flannery, reportedly contributed $100,000 to the event while other sponsors including IBM, AT&T, Verizon, Pfizer, Macy’s and American Airlines pitched in.
`The committee is looking very seriously at this trip because of all the members of Congress who attended,` said a source close to the investigation.
Flaherty said he is `happy if the Committee is finally looking into this.`
The purported purpose of the trip by members of congress was to attend an event called the Caribbean Multi-Cultural Business Conference that took place on November 6 -9, 2008, at the Sonesta Maho Bay Resort& Casino in St. Maarten. The NLPC says the members violated House rules.
House Ethics rules ban lobbyist involvement in planning, organizing, requesting, or arranging most trips and require approval of all privately funded travel by the Standards Committee following pre-travel certification by the private sponsor.
The IRS, meanwhile, says Carib News is not listed as a charity and there are no publicly available tax filings for the group. It is also not listed with the New York Attorney General as required for charities based in New York state.
However, CWNN found a Carib News Charities Inc., listed with the IRS and reporting asset/income of $1 as of 2006. No other filings were found.
An IRS report showed that the foundation had no revenue or expenses from June 1, 2005 to May 31, 2006 and spent nothing on direct charitable activities, including conferences.
The conference organized by the paper, has been occurring for the past 12 years and is moved to a different Caribbean island each year, with Caribbean governments pitching in as hosts annually.