May 11, 2017

Top House Democrat Funneling Campaign Cash To Lobbyist Brother

Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY), the fourth ranking member in the House Democratic leadership team, finds himself in hot water today after a New York Post report uncovered campaign chicanery related to his political office space. The major revelation is that Crowley has paid his lobbyist brother at least $69,000 in rent from his campaign account since 2007.

The ethical problem is that according to the House Ethics Manual there are only “limited conditions” that allow you to rent space from a relative:

“The House Ethics Manual allows, under limited conditions, the renting of space from relatives. Its chapter on campaign activity notes that leasing office space from a family member is permitted only when there’s a ‘bona fide campaign need; and when the campaign ‘does not pay more than fair-market value.’”

As the New York Post shows though, Crowley already has use of a space at the Queens Democratic headquarters, making the space Crowley rents from his brother superfluous. Additionally, the rental property isn’t even in Crowley’s congressional district.

Already ethics experts are slamming Crowley’s move. John Kaehny, the chairman of NYC Transparency Working Group, said this story raises “red flags”

“’This, without a doubt, raises red flags about conflicts of interest,” said John Kaehny, chairman of the NYC Transparency Working Group. ‘As an important public official, you want to be above suspicion, not raising suspicion.’”

Ken Boehm of the National Legal and Policy Center added that this looks like a “slush fund”:

“’It’s not physically in his district — that would be a key point,’ said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center. ‘What he uses it for — it’s as old as politics — it’s called a slush fund. And what do you know? It goes to a family-connected entity.’”

As it stands now it looks very likely that Congressman Crowley broke House ethics rules. He owes the voters of his district an immediate explanation.