Federal prosecutors have charged a Caribbean American foundation leader with lying to the House Ethics Committee during an inquiry into who paid for several congressmen to go on Caribbean trips, according to a court document.
Karl Rodney, who founded the media company Carib News Inc. and a related charity, was charged with one count of making a false statement to Congress. A two-page description of the count was filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The charge follows a long-running congressional inquiry into two Caribbean trips, one in 2007 and one in 2008. Money from several major corporations, including American Airlines, AT&T and Verizon, helped to pay for at least six lawmakers to go on the trips, according to a February 2010 report from the House Ethics Committee.
Members of Congress face restrictions on attending conferences sponsored by corporations that have lobbyists, but Rodney and his staff did not disclose that anyone other than the Carib News Foundation was sponsoring its conferences, according to the ethics committee’s report.
The two-page charging document makes a similar accusation, that Rodney “falsely certified that the statements on a certification form… were true, complete, and correct to the best of his knowledge, when in truth and in fact, as [Rodney] well knew when he made this statement, the certification form was untrue, incomplete and incorrect in that it did not (a) identify all the sponsors of the trip; and (b) failed to disclose all the sources that had earmarked funds and other support to finance aspects of the trip.” (The document does not explain the reference to only one trip.)
A message left today with the Carib News Foundation was not immediately returned. U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney declined to comment, and a prosecutor assigned to the case, Justin Shur of the DOJ Public Integrity Section, did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
Lawyers for Rodney described him as a pillar of the Caribbean American community in a letter dated March 2009 and addressed to the Office of Congressional Ethics.
“It is clear that it has always been our clients’ intention to complete all of the necessary paperwork, including the House’s Private Sponsor Certification Form, accurately and honestly,” wrote the lawyers, Joel Cohen and Danielle Walsman. Cohen, a partner at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, wrote in an e-mail today that he no longer represents Rodney.
In its report last year, the ethics committee publicly accused Rodney; his wife, Faye Rodney; and their employee, Patricia Louis, of submitting false or misleading information during the committee’s pre-travel review of the conferences. It referred the three to the Justice Department for possible prosecution. Court documents do not show that Faye Rodney or Louis has been charged.
Five lawmakers were cleared by the ethics committee because the committee said they did not knowingly violate the House’s Code of Official Conduct. The committee admonished a sixth lawmaker, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), because it said Rangel’s staff knew corporations had contributed money for the conferences. The committee said it did not have sufficient evidence that Rangel was aware of what his staff knew.
The conferences were held in Antigua and Barbuda in November 2007 and St. Maarten in 2008.
By David Ingram. Mike Scarcella contributed.