A newspaper publisher and philanthropist who for years arranged for members of Congress to attend a business conference in the Caribbean pleaded guilty in Washington federal court today to misleading congressional staff about who paid for the travel expenses.
Karl Rodney, the founder of Carib News Inc. and a related charity, is the only person to have been charged in the scandal, which prompted an ethics inquiry of several lawmakers.
Rodney, 73, is a native of Jamaica who lives in New York. He acknowledged several times in court today that he was guilty of the crime of false statements. At the end of the 45-minute hearing, Rodney blamed a “lapse of judgment” and said, “I regret that deeply.”
Since 2007, House rules have required a pre-approval process for members who go on privately funded trips, and the process requires the disclosure of funding sources. Money from several major corporations, including American Airlines, AT&T and Verizon, paid for at least six lawmakers to go on the Caribbean trips in 2007 and 2008, but Rodney failed to disclose their involvement, according to the House Ethics Committee’s initial inquiry.
As a result of Rodney’s actions, “the public was denied the right to know the true source of financial support for travel by Members to the Conferences,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
More than 30 friends and family attended the hearing in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Rodney stood for most of the hearing between his two attorneys, Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree Jr. and Devereaux Cannick of Aiello & Cannick in Maspeth, N.Y.
The case was prosecuted by Kate Albrecht and Justin Shur, two trial attorneys in the Justice Department’s public integrity section. Rodney is scheduled to be sentenced July 22 by Judge Emmet Sullivan, and the sentencing range calls for between zero and six months in prison. He was charged in February.
In a joint court filing on Wednesday, lawyers disclosed that the government has provided Rodney documents and records that “contain confidential, personally-identifiable information of third parties or certain information relating to sensitive investigations.” However, the lawyers asked for a protective order to restrict the disclosure of the government’s documents.
By David Ingram and Mike Scarcella. Updated at 5:39 p.m.