Ethics Committee targeting Homeland Security Committee chair

posted at 12:55 pm on December 4, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

The House Ethics Committee will probe the actions of Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), chair of the Homeland Security Committee, for his sudden interest in what looked to be an unrelated field — credit card companies.  Thompson used identity theft as a lever for his committee to issue expensive regulations on the industry.  In response, lobbyists began engaging Thompson … while the credit-card companies began to fill his coffers, as the Washington Post’s Spencer Hsu reports:

At a hearing in late March, the nation’s credit card companies faced the threat of expensive new rules from an unlikely regulator: the House Committee on Homeland Security, chaired by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.).

The committee had never before dealt with credit card issues, but Thompson warned Visa, MasterCard and others that Congress might need to impose tighter security standards costing millions of dollars to protect customers from identity theft.

Behind the scenes, some of Thompson’s staffers sensed a different motive — an attempt to pressure the companies into making political donations to the chairman, according to several former committee staffers.

Now the House ethics committee is investigating the propriety of the committee’s operations, and whether its members’ interactions with companies compromised its work. Within a few weeks of the hearing, Thompson collected $15,000 in donations from the credit card industry and its Washington-based lobbyists, a Washington Post analysis shows. No legislation on card security has been introduced.

Several former committee staffers, speaking on the condition of anonymity, have told The Post that the credit card hearing was one of several committee actions that caused staff concerns because of their consideration of potential donors and contractors friendly to Thompson. The current ethics inquiry was prompted this summer, according to an ethics document obtained by The Post, when a former committee aide alleged she was fired after complaining to her bosses that a lobbyist made improper requests of staff members.

No one doubts that identity theft is a major issue, but jurisdiction for that would be with the Judiciary and Finance committees.  Homeland Security’s jurisdiction includes national security, immigration, and emergency response, not normal legal matters.  Even the corollary between identity fraud and immigration fraud would have more to do with Judiciary, and certainly that issue’s impact on credit-card regulation would be the purview of Finance.

Small wonder Thompson’s staffers wondered what Thompson wanted with this issue.  It smells like a shakedown attempt.  Thompson had no business threatening to impose credit-card regulations in the name of national security.  One also has to wonder how much free time the HSC has under Thompson’s leadership.  Have they completed visa reform before starting on Visa-card reform?  Has Thompson done anything to focus on American border control before trying to control American Express?

This gives us an excellent reminder of why we limit Congressional power in the first place.  It also makes an argument that creating the Department of Homeland Security could be more of a threat to the US in the long run than the threats it purported to address.  Civil libertarians warned at the time that aggregating such a wide variety of agencies under the expansive mission of “homeland security” would encourage abuses of power, but no one to my recollection figured on Congressmen abusing the power to scare up campaign contributions.


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Within a few weeks of the hearing, Thompson collected $15,000 in donations from the credit card industry and its Washington-based lobbyists, a Washington Post analysis shows.

Lobbying is really what, legalized bribery?

lorien1973 on December 4, 2009 at 12:57 PM

Civil libertarians warned at the time that aggregating such a wide variety of agencies under the expansive mission of “homeland security” would encourage abuses of power, but no one to my recollection figured on Congressmen abusing the power to scare up campaign contributions.

I never thought it was necessary in the first place…all we needed to do was take down some of those idiotic ‘firewalls’ the Dems put in place to allow the different agencies to cooperate.

Instead, we got this massive federal blob that still have these goofy PC inspired firewalls…we are no safer as a result…all it did was expand the bureaucracy and open the door for fraud.

AUINSC on December 4, 2009 at 12:59 PM

It’s a racket. Racketeering.

Oink on December 4, 2009 at 1:00 PM

but no one to my recollection figured on Congressmen abusing the power to scare up campaign contributions.

He’s a demonrat,I would’nt put nothing past him.

SHARPTOOTH on December 4, 2009 at 1:00 PM

Let me be the first to say that racism is still rampant in America!!!1!11!

SouthernGent on December 4, 2009 at 1:01 PM

was he trained by Jesse or Al?

bbz123 on December 4, 2009 at 1:01 PM

Democrat scam…..possibly even a scam-ola.

JoeinTX on December 4, 2009 at 1:02 PM

Using the threat of legislation to gin up campaign contributions is almost as old as the country. Unfortunately. Nothing short of scaling the govt back to it’s constitutional roots will fix this problem.

MarkTheGreat on December 4, 2009 at 1:02 PM

Culture of Corruption.

Del Dolemonte on December 4, 2009 at 1:03 PM

Of course credit cards are important to national security! Heck, I’ve seen folks flip them so hard that those little plastic suckers could almost slice a finger off!

They’re the new in-flight weapons.

/

Intrepid on December 4, 2009 at 1:05 PM

African-America… Mississippi… this is the modern equivalent of a lynching.

/SCM analysis

mankai on December 4, 2009 at 1:06 PM

Bravo, Ed.

maverick muse on December 4, 2009 at 1:06 PM

Thompson warned Visa, MasterCard and others that Congress might need to impose tighter security standards costing millions of dollars to protect customers from identity theft.

Is it just me or does this guys (and most politicians for that matter) warnings sound like extortion attempts? Am I missing something?

Tommy_G on December 4, 2009 at 1:07 PM

He learned his trade well from Rev. Jackson and Sharpton.

Mr. Arrogant on December 4, 2009 at 1:07 PM

Well, I certainly am not a supporter of this agency, but all this over 15,000?

That seems to be making a story where there’s none yet.

AnninCA on December 4, 2009 at 1:07 PM

Typical. These a-holes’ antics don’t surprise me anymore, and worse, I’m running out of outrage.

No doubt that’s part of the plan.

tru2tx on December 4, 2009 at 1:08 PM

A great many congressional investigations are nothing more than shakedowns to push a company or an industry into “buying protection” from the political class.

Labamigo on December 4, 2009 at 1:08 PM

It just never ends.

Queen0fCups on December 4, 2009 at 1:09 PM

Lobbying is really what, legalized bribery?

lorien1973 on December 4, 2009 at 12:57 PM

No kidding! At this point given the internet, lobbying should be banned. Get the information that any special interest wants to project from their website, and validate in writing communications between legislators and those making requests and suggestions. Simplify transparency.

maverick muse on December 4, 2009 at 1:10 PM

One big problem is that he will be reelected no matter what, ala Marion Barry.

rjoco1 on December 4, 2009 at 1:11 PM

AnninCA on December 4, 2009 at 1:07 PM

You are always the predictable twit.

Fletch54 on December 4, 2009 at 1:13 PM

Whoa, this is the guy doing the hearings into Party-gate who right off the bat indicted and convicted the Secret Service and came thisclose to accusing them of being racists indifferent to the safety of the current POTUS.

Whoda guessed he’d be possibly corrupt on top of a racebaiting hatemonger?

(rhetorical q)

KittyLowrey on December 4, 2009 at 1:14 PM

Companies need to stop playing with these thieves and shine the light of day on them. Expose their extortion

DerKrieger on December 4, 2009 at 1:15 PM

Well, I certainly am not a supporter of this agency, but all this over 15,000?

That seems to be making a story where there’s none yet.

AnninCA on December 4, 2009 at 1:07 PM

it would be a different story if it was your money, What say you now?

SHARPTOOTH on December 4, 2009 at 1:16 PM

This POS is my Congressmen, He has done ZIP & ZAH for Ms. other than a fishfry that I’m pretty sure that is all donated or tax payers money

driver on December 4, 2009 at 1:17 PM

He just got the whole Visa thing mixed up. Visa, Visa cards, I can see how it would be hard to figure all this out for an elected representative.

Neo on December 4, 2009 at 1:18 PM

“Have they completed visa reform before starting on Visa-card reform?  Has Thompson done anything to focus on American border control before trying to control American Express?”

You’re in top form today, Ed. :-)

KS Rex on December 4, 2009 at 1:20 PM

Surely it is a coincidence that Thompson wants to subpoena White Social Secretary Desiree Rogers about the Party Crasher incident.

baldilocks on December 4, 2009 at 1:23 PM

This Congressman is too comfortable in his job…..let’s see, a $15,000 payday for only 11 months of service.

yoda on December 4, 2009 at 1:24 PM

I thought Desiree Rogers was a black lady

driver on December 4, 2009 at 1:26 PM

Clarification: I’m not saying that Thompson shouldn’t be investigated for this matter. What I am saying is that he’s probably been crooked for a long time but it’s interesting that the matter comes up now.

baldilocks on December 4, 2009 at 1:27 PM

I thought Desiree Rogers was a black lady

driver on December 4, 2009 at 1:26 PM

Um, she is. I don’t get your point.

baldilocks on December 4, 2009 at 1:27 PM

Well, I certainly am not a supporter of this agency, but all this over 15,000?

That seems to be making a story where there’s none yet.

AnninCA on December 4, 2009 at 1:07 PM

That’s only the money that is known about.

Want to make a side bet that there is more that was in hidden transactions? I didn’t think so…

Yoop on December 4, 2009 at 1:29 PM

but Thompson warned Visa, MasterCard and others that Congress might need to impose tighter security standards costing millions of dollars to protect customers from identity theft.

Nice little credit card business you got going here. Be a shame if something bad happened to it. . .

rbj on December 4, 2009 at 1:29 PM

With Congressman Thompson going after the White House Party Czar (Ms Rodgers) to testify about the party crashers; I would be thinking that Ramh has placed a simple call to Nancy “Turn down the heat or we will crank up the bus”. Thompson is in a pickle here if he does not back down.

Dire Straits on December 4, 2009 at 1:29 PM

Put it in the damned freezer dumbass!!!

BigWyo on December 4, 2009 at 1:30 PM

With Congressman Thompson going after the White House Party Czar (Ms Rodgers) to testify about the party crashers; I would be thinking that Ramh has placed a simple call to Nancy “Turn down the heat or we will crank up the bus”. Thompson is in a pickle here if he does not back down.

Dire Straits on December 4, 2009 at 1:29 PM

Ding!

baldilocks on December 4, 2009 at 1:30 PM

It’s a racket. Racketeering.

Oink on December 4, 2009 at 1:00 PM

Since Thompson is black……

Charges of racist motivation behind this investigation will begin almost immediately.

Well, I certainly am not a supporter of this agency, but all this over 15,000?

AnninCA on December 4, 2009 at 1:07 PM

So name your dollar level. At what point should there be concerns of ethical violations. So how much can Congressmen collect before you begin to worry about ethics? 20K? 50K? 100K?

BTW and for the record, ethics investigations are based on the appearance of conflict of interest or improper behavior, not on the dollar amount. The assumption is that one dollar illegally gained is too much but people like you are willing to look the other way over 15K.

highhopes on December 4, 2009 at 1:32 PM

White Social Secretary

Surely it is a coincidence that Thompson wants to subpoena Desiree Rogers about the Party Crasher incident.White Social Secretary

baldilocks on December 4, 2009 at 1:23 PM

driver on December 4, 2009 at 1:35 PM

Surely it is a coincidence that Thompson wants to subpoena White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers about the Party Crasher incident.

baldilocks on December 4, 2009 at 1:23 PM

driver on December 4, 2009 at 1:40 PM

Um, she is. I don’t get your point.

baldilocks on December 4, 2009 at 1:27 PM

Maybe driver misunderstood because you wrote ‘White Social Secretary’ instead of ‘White House Social Secretary’

AsianGirlInTights on December 4, 2009 at 1:42 PM

driver on December 4, 2009 at 1:40 PM

Oh. hahahaha

White=while

baldilocks on December 4, 2009 at 1:44 PM

This POS is my Congressmen, He has done ZIP & ZAH for Ms. other than a fishfry that I’m pretty sure that is all donated or tax payers money

driver on December 4, 2009 at 1:17 PM

Remember Thompson was on the The Agriculture Committee but was bad the Donks removed him from the committee. He is at least as bad as Shelia Jackson Lee.

Dire Straits on December 4, 2009 at 1:45 PM

AsianGirlInTights on December 4, 2009 at 1:42 PM

Thanx

driver on December 4, 2009 at 1:46 PM

Actually I think I meant to type “White House Social Secretary”

baldilocks on December 4, 2009 at 1:46 PM

baldilocks on December 4, 2009 at 1:27 PM

AsianGirlInTights on December 4, 2009 at 1:42 PM

I thought driver misunderstood too.

yoda on December 4, 2009 at 1:46 PM

AsianGirlInTights on December 4, 2009 at 1:42 PM

Exactly right. More coffee, less cold/flu medicine.

baldilocks on December 4, 2009 at 1:47 PM

Remember Thompson was on the The Agriculture Committee but was so bad the Donks removed him from the committee. He is at least as bad as Shelia Jackson Lee.

Dire Straits on December 4, 2009 at 1:45 PM

Sorry about that.

Dire Straits on December 4, 2009 at 1:49 PM

Related sort of: The White House and the Congressional Black Caucus are rumored to be at war with each other. It seem that the CBC think that the president isn’t doing enough for their districts. Read: not giving them a large enough piece of that sweet TARP action.

baldilocks on December 4, 2009 at 1:55 PM

arrrgggghhh seem=seems, think=thinks

I think I’ll just quit for today.

baldilocks on December 4, 2009 at 1:56 PM

Well, I certainly am not a supporter of this agency, but all this over 15,000?

That seems to be making a story where there’s none yet.

AnninCA on December 4, 2009 at 1:07 PM

Attitudes like this are why crooks like Thompson keep getting re-lected.

atlgal on December 4, 2009 at 2:01 PM

Well, I certainly am not a supporter of this agency, but all this over 15,000?

AnninCA on December 4, 2009 at 1:07 PM

He was just getting started. They all start small. They see how easily it can be done and they get bolder. You think only people who line their pockets with hundreds of thousands should be investigated, not just tens of thousands? Good grief. A law is a law. Break it and suffer the consequences. Could you take a $15k bribe at your place of employment and not suffer any penalty? This guy won’t either, they’ll just investigate.

scalleywag on December 4, 2009 at 2:01 PM

About the only difference in “ethics” is that some of the legislators are too stupid to realize that they have to spend just as much energy covering their tracks as they do extorting campaign donations. Otherwise they get caught.

RBMN on December 4, 2009 at 2:04 PM

all this over 15,000?

AnninCA on December 4, 2009 at 1:07 PM

Well honey, if $15,000.00 doesn’t flip your skirt, please name the level of corruption with which you WOULD be comfortable. Then justify your dollar limit please.

Thank you.

oldleprechaun on December 4, 2009 at 2:06 PM

The photo caption for this thread could just as well be “I foresee we, the Democrats, getting our a$$e$ kicked in 2010!”

ya2daup on December 4, 2009 at 2:08 PM

baldilocks on December 4, 2009 at 1:27 PM

Oh, you are so right…sounds as if there is a little rift between the thieves.

d1carter on December 4, 2009 at 2:18 PM

It also makes an argument that creating the Department of Homeland Security could be more of a threat to the US in the long run than the threats it purported to address.

The problem here is not that it is somehow wrong for the federal government to be in charge of national defense – or to set up an organization specifically geared toward that end. That is a GOOD thing. That’s what the government is SUPPOSED to do.

The problem is when government agencies assume they have unlimited SCOPE. What they Hell difference does it make what the name or charter of the organization is, if they simply pay no attention to it?

If there were only one federal agency, and they called it “The Department of Flowers and Puppies”, it could just as easily lead to a totalitarian nightmare under this kind of leadership.

logis on December 4, 2009 at 2:19 PM

Is it just me or does this guys (and most politicians for that matter) warnings sound like extortion attempts? Am I missing something?

Tommy_G on December 4, 2009 at 1:07 PM

Sopranos… You got a nice business…

Well, I certainly am not a supporter of this agency, but all this over 15,000?
That seems to be making a story where there’s none yet.
AnninCA on December 4, 2009 at 1:07 PM

AnninCA,
Assuming this was a million dollar. Would that make it a story?

I am stunned by your lack of ethical expectations from your elected representatives.

antisocial on December 4, 2009 at 2:23 PM

He just got the whole Visa thing mixed up. Visa, Visa cards, I can see how it would be hard to figure all this out for an elected representativeaffirmative action hire.

Neo on December 4, 2009 at 1:18 PM

I fixed it for you.

inevitable on December 4, 2009 at 2:24 PM

Well honey, if $15,000.00 doesn’t flip your skirt, please name the level of corruption with which you WOULD be comfortable. Then justify your dollar limit please.

Thank you.

oldleprechaun on December 4, 2009 at 2:06 PM

Ann doesn’t respond to hard questions like that. You’ll see.

AsianGirlInTights on December 4, 2009 at 2:29 PM

no one to my recollection figured on Congressmen abusing the power to scare up campaign contributions

Congresscritters and Senaturds will find ways to put their fingers in the pie or their hands in the cookie jar regardless of whether we create new agencies or not.

They have learned long ago from their crooked predecessors that they have nothing to fear from us … for now.

Mark Boabaca on December 4, 2009 at 2:30 PM

Time to check his freezer.

Akzed on December 4, 2009 at 2:31 PM

Congressional Democrats behaving like shuck and jive shakedown artists. Learning from the Chicago way, are we.

tarpon on December 4, 2009 at 2:32 PM

Turning Homeland Security into a juice committee: priceless.

PattyJ on December 4, 2009 at 2:39 PM

Why shouldn’t he have done it, and thought he could get away with it?! Isn’t this the REAL hope, and change that was promised? It sure seems to be.

capejasmine on December 4, 2009 at 2:41 PM

Shakedown, Chicago style! Did no take him long to learn.

FireBlogger on December 4, 2009 at 2:41 PM

Once again “This will be the most ethical…..”

faol on December 4, 2009 at 2:52 PM

Behind the scenes, some of Thompson’s staffers sensed a different motive —

Encouraging to see a staff member diming the boss…or could it be the staffer just wasn’t getting his/her share of the payoff?!?

PaCadle on December 4, 2009 at 3:06 PM

It also makes an argument that creating the Department of Homeland Security could be more of a threat to the US in the long run than the threats it purported to address.

I don’t think graft will be as much trouble as skyscrapers exploding.

Chris_Balsz on December 4, 2009 at 3:16 PM

Shakedown, Chicago style! Did no take him long to learn.

FireBlogger on December 4, 2009 at 2:41 PM

Especially when you have the WH chief of staff as a teacher. Exit question: Does Barry still owe chi-town the mil and a half for the election-night party?

Goldy1 on December 4, 2009 at 3:16 PM

RAAAAAACIST!

RightWinged on December 4, 2009 at 3:21 PM

Well honey, if $15,000.00 doesn’t flip your skirt, please name the level of corruption with which you WOULD be comfortable. Then justify your dollar limit please.

Thank you.

oldleprechaun on December 4, 2009 at 2:06 PM

I am so stealing that “flip your skirt” line…

And AsianGirl is right – Ann will never be back to give you an answer.

ladyingray on December 4, 2009 at 3:48 PM

I’m amazed we don’t see more of these stories. Any congresscritter can introduce any legislation they like, but in this case it was just a question of holding a hearing we’d all like to think was outside the scope of the committee this guy chaired. It wasn’t, as they weren’t debating any specific legislation. So the chairman can discuss whatever the hell he wants to.

Sure it was a shakedown, and a successful one at that. He knows (as do all of us here) that nothing will come of this, he won’t pay any price at all, and in fact can go right back to doing it again any time he likes. What the hell do you really think you can do to stop him?

runawayyyy on December 4, 2009 at 3:49 PM

In 2005, the Washington Post reported that Thompson was one of two Democratic Members of Congress who took trips in the mid-1990s to the Northern Mariana Islands that were paid for by lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is now in prison. The Members were invited on the trip by the National Security Caucus Foundation. At the time of the trip, Abramoff and his law firm were being paid to lobby on behalf of Northern Mariana Island businesses who wished to remain exempt from paying minimum wages.[3]

Thompson has been criticized for trips he made in April 2007 as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. Thompson, along with eight other members of congress, took trips to Mexico City, Honduras, the Virgin Islands, and Key West, Florida aboard a government-owned Boeing executive jet. The trips cost up to $130,000. The flight members also stayed at luxury hotels, such as one Caneel Bay resort, which were also paid for by the government. The trips were said to be made to “check out matters of homeland security.”[4]

In November 2008, days after the election, Thompson took an all-expenses paid trip to the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort in St. Martin to participate in the New York Carib News Foundation’s annual conference. [5] Critics of the trip have questioned whether the Carib News Foundation is legally a nonprofit and whether the corporate sponsorship of the event and presence of numerous corporate interests violated Congressional ethics rules. And they criticized the partial financing of the trip by Citigroup, which received billions of bailout dollars just weeks later.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bennie_Thompson

Tom

marinetbryant on December 4, 2009 at 3:55 PM

Normally dems circle their wagons for their colleagues, even against overwhelming damming evidence.

I wonder if there is anything to do with Beck’s Refounder program.

Sir Napsalot on December 4, 2009 at 4:01 PM

Is this why the APR interest on my credit cards, all of them from various credit card companies except for one (US BANK), have suddenly doubled? Where once I was getting an APR of 9%-13% they’ve skyrocketed overnight to 17.5%-22.5%.

Of course I cut them up and mailed them back to the issuers along with a note telling them to stuff the bits up where the sun don’t shine.

SilverStar830 on December 4, 2009 at 4:10 PM

When I read it involved a black Democrat and the Hussein administration, in my mind the rest of the story wrote itself.

leftnomore on December 4, 2009 at 5:11 PM