Thursday, September 28, 2006

Sweeney: One of the 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress

Sweeney: One of the 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress
Beyond Delay

Rep. John Sweeney (R-NY)

John Sweeney is a fourth-term Congressman representing the 20th district of New York. His ethics issues stem from a ski trip to New York, the exchange of legislative assistance for campaign contributions and the hiring of his wife as a campaign fundraiser.

Misuse of public funds to pay for a trip to New York

Rep. Sweeney invited 53 people to join him from January 6-9, 2006, for a “Congressional Winter Challenge” at the Lake Placid Olympic facilities. There, Rep. Sweeney and his guests enjoyed pretending to be Olympic athletes by participating in events including skiing, bobsledding and hockey, all paid for with New York taxpayer dollars. The trip appears to violate several provisions of the House gift and travel rules, including the prohibition on recreational travel.

Relationship with National Marine Manufacturers Association

In May 2006, Rep. Sweeney introduced the Boating Safety Tax Incentive Act, legislation that the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) strongly supported and even helped draft, allowing boat manufacturers to supply new boats with free safety equipment, including up-to-date lifejackets, in exchange for a tax deduction. In apparent exchange, NMMA’s PAC has supported Rep. Sweeney and contributed to his campaign committee for the past three years. In the 2006 election cycle alone, NMMA donated $4,500 to Rep. Sweeney, making him the third highest recipient of contributions from NMMA’s PAC. Additionally, NMMA has hosted fundraisers for Rep. Sweeney on its luxurious yacht, raising a total of $12,150. If Rep. Sweeney received campaign donations in return for campaign contributions he may have violated federal bribery and honest services fraud as well as violated House rules.

Employment of Spouse Gayle Ford

Rep. Sweeney has hired his wife’s firm to fundraise for his campaign, despite the fact that she has no fundraising experience and appears to have no other clients. She receives a 10% commission on the money she brings in, the campaign paid her $42,570 during the 2004-2005 election cycle, and as of April 2006, she received $30,879 for the current election cycle. Notably, records show that Rep. Sweeney has had a fundraising consultant on monthly retainer since June of 2004, who is paid $8,583 a month. The facts suggest that Rep. Sweeney is converting campaign funds to personal use in violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act and House rules.

Son Avoids Jail

Rep. Sweeney’s son, John, brutally beat another teenager, but avoided jail for his offense. The ethics committee should investigate whether the young man received special treatment because of his father’s position in violation of House rules.

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