‘What Nancy Pelosi knows’

By Joel Thurtell

Mitt Romney wants to know ‘what Nancy Pelosi knows’ about ethics violations by Newt Gingrich when he was Speaker of the House.

I’d settle for knowing what Nancy knows about her fellow Democrat, John “The Con” Conyers.

Nancy was quoted in Huffington Post saying she has the goods on Newt:

“One of these days we’ll have a conversation about Newt Gingrich,” she said. “I know a lot about him. I served on the investigative committee that investigated him, four of us locked in a room in an undisclosed location for a year. A thousand pages of his stuff.”

Well, she has the goods on Johnny Boy, too.

Seems only fair, if she’s gonna spill the beans on the Newtster, then she oughta jam it to the ranking minority member of the House Judiciary COmmittee.

Because the Nance knows the score on John The Con.

Hey, Dems — wanta dig up old dirt on Newt?

Then give us the dirt on Conyers, too!

For the Detroit Free Press articles on Conyers, see my blog category, Conyers Series.

For my blog reporting on Conyers, see JC & Me.

One of these days, maybe House Minority Leader Pelosi will have a conversation about JC. She knows a lot about him. She helped sweep his legal and ethical violations under the congressional carpet.

C’mon, Nance, tell us what you know about John!

Here’s an essay I published August 5, 2008 on the awkwardness of Nancy Pelosi protecting Conyers:

The Ethics “Paralysis’ Charade

By Joel Thurtell

The new Democratic Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has promised us “the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history.”

But Democrats are not serious about that promise now any more than they have been for the last several years. If they really took ethics reform seriously, Democrats would long ago have moved decisively for an investigation of one of their most senior and prominent members.

John Conyers, I believe, is the simple reason why Democrats are pulling their ethics punch. They could have done something about ethics long before now. No new rules or laws are needed to deal with members like Conyers. Even as the minority party, Democrats had parity with Republicans on only one committee in all Congress. That’s on the so-called Ethics Committee, officially the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. Yet Democrats allowed Republicans for the past two years to paralyze the Ethics Committee.

Or so it would seem.

All along, there has been Democratic complicity in the committee’s lethargy. An article in The Nation on Feb. 6, 2006 suggested that Democrats are reluctant to file complaints against Republican members for fear of reprisal complaints aimed at Democrats. Hence a “truce” that in effect has stymied, the magazine argued, the committee from investigating new cases. In fact, there may be far more complicity on the part of Democrats than commentators acknowledge.

More than two years ago, on Nov. 21, 2003, the Detroit Free Press published a pair of articles exposing longstanding abuses by U.S. Rep. John Conyers of Detroit. The Free Press stories revealed that Conyers had routinely assigned not one, not two, not three, but ALL of his congressional staffers to do campaign work on government-paid time. The work was done not only for Conyers’ own re-election campaigns, but for others, including his wife and various local, state and national Democratic candidates whose elections Conyers thought crucial. I’m one of the reporters who worked on these stories. At one point in November 2003 I reached a Conyers staffer by telephone where he sat working in the Chicago presidential campaign office of Carol Moseley Braun. He was being paid to be in Detroit, organizing a universal health insurance symposium for constituents, except that Conyers had assigned him to work for Braun. The staffer was collecting pay for congressional work others were obliged to do for him, I confirmed through congressional payroll records. Not only office time was squandered, but office phones, fax machines, photo copiers and computers were used for political campaigns, notwithstanding that misuse is contrary to House ethics guidelines and in some cases illegal.

Soon after our articles were published, I was told the Ethics Committee had opened an investigation into the abuses we outlined regarding Conyers. I reported that. But the committee has not acted. It has been paralyzed, seemingly by obstruction from Republicans.

John Conyers has been a member of Congress for 42 (now 44) years. Among black people in Detroit, he is an icon. He espouses liberal causes that make him the darling of the left and of labor unions. He is the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. He has called for the impeachment of President Bush, and if there were to be an impeachment case, Conyers, as ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, would have a powerful say in how it’s run.

Those are potent reasons why Democrats might not want a probe of the dean of black congressmen.

But it could be worse than that. Some years ago, another Democratic congressman from Detroit, Charles Diggs, was convicted of fraud and served prison time for ordering House legislative aides to work at his family funeral home on government time. Recently, the indictment of U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay and the convictions of members like Randy Cunningham and Bob Ney are proof that congressmen who play fast and loose with House rules and with the law often are a short step from indictment.

A proper investigation of John Conyers in the Ethics Committee would have no trouble finding plenty of witnesses who would testify that as congressional employees hired by Conyers to work for constituents they instead were ordered by the congressman to do personal work for him resembling those funeral parlor assignments of Charles Diggs: They worked as chauffeurs for Conyers and his wife and kids, they were full time babysitters in the Conyers home or staffers’ own homes. Conyers’ former general counsel Sydney Rooks says Conyers assigned her to tutor Conyers’ oldest son — a daily chore that took place in the office during regular business hours with the use of the congressman’s fax machine to receive the boy’s daily homework assignments. Despite the supposed Ethics Committee inquiry, Conyers continued to assign his staffers to do personal chores like driving him in their own cars, babysitting his kids and picking up his meal tabs, according to Deanna Maher, who retired May 31, 2005 as chief of staff of Conyers’ Southgate, Mich. Office.

It may beat messing with dead bodies in a funeral home, but assigning staffers to work in a Chicago politician’s office and assigning aides to baby sit your kids and then representing to the congressional payroll office that these people were doing bona fide constituent work so they can cash government paychecks seems on a par with Charles Diggs’ duping the government into covering the payroll for his funeral parlor.

Could John Conyers be the reason the Ethics Committee — not to mention any move to strengthen ethics laws — is in limbo?

Contact me at joelthurtell(at)gmail.com


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