The Essence of Politics

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Congressional Ethics Called into Question

House ethics investigators have been scrutinizing the activities of more than 30 lawmakers and several aides in inquiries about issues including defense lobbying and corporate influence peddling, according to a confidential House ethics committee report prepared in July. The report appeared to have been inadvertently placed on a publicly accessible computer network, and it was provided to The Washington Post by a source not connected to the congressional investigations. The committee said that the document was released by a low-level staffer.

The ethics committee is one of the most secretive panels in Congress, and its members and staff members sign oaths not to disclose any activities related to its past or present investigations. Watchdog groups have accused the committee of not actively pursuing inquiries; the newly disclosed document indicates the panel is conducting far more investigations than it had revealed. Shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday, October 29, 2009, the committee chairman, Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), interrupted a series of House votes to alert lawmakers about the breach. She cautioned that some of the panel's activities are preliminary and not a conclusive sign of inappropriate behavior. "No inference should be made as to any member," she said.

Rep. Jo Bonner (Ala.), the committee's ranking Republican, said the breach was an isolated incident. The 22-page "Committee on Standards Weekly Summary Report" gives brief summaries of ethics panel investigations of the conduct of 19 lawmakers and a few staff members. It also outlines the work of the new Office of Congressional Ethics, a quasi-independent body that initiates investigations and provides recommendations to the ethics committee. The document indicated that the office was reviewing the activities of 14 other lawmakers. Some were under review by both ethics bodies.

Ethics committee investigations are not uncommon. Most result in private letters that either exonerate or reprimand a member. In some rare instances, the censure is more severe. Many of the broad outlines of the cases cited in the July document are known -- the committee announced over the summer that it was reviewing lawmakers with connections to the now-closed PMA Group, a lobbying firm. But the document indicates that the inquiry was broader than initially believed. It included a review of seven lawmakers on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee who have steered federal money to the firm's clients and have also received large campaign contributions.

The document also disclosed that:
-- Ethics committee staff members have interviewed House Ways and Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) about one element of the complex investigation of his personal finances, as well as the lawmaker's top aide and his son. Rangel said he spoke with ethics committee staff members regarding a conference that he and four other members of the Congressional Black Caucus attended last November in St. Martin. The trip initially was said to be sponsored by a nonprofit foundation run by a newspaper. But the three-day event, at a luxury resort, was underwritten by major corporations such as Citigroup, Pfizer and AT&T. Rules passed in 2007, shortly after Democrats reclaimed the majority following a wave of corruption cases against Republicans, bar private companies from paying for congressional travel. Rangel said he has not discussed other parts of the investigation of his finances with the committee. "I'm waiting for that, anxiously," he said.

-- The Justice Department has told the ethics panel to suspend a probe of Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-W.Va.), whose personal finances federal investigators began reviewing in early 2006 after complaints from a conservative group that he was not fully revealing his real estate holdings. There has been no public action on that inquiry for several years. But the department's request in early July to the committee suggests that the case continues to draw the attention of federal investigators, who often ask that the House and Senate ethics panels refrain from taking action against members whom the department is already investigating. Mollohan said that he was not aware of any ongoing interest by the Justice Department in his case and that he and his attorneys have not heard from federal investigators. "The answer is no," he said.

-- The committee on June 9 authorized issuance of subpoenas to the Justice Department, the National Security Agency and the FBI for "certain intercepted communications" regarding Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.). As was reported earlier this year, Harman was heard in a 2005 conversation agreeing to an Israeli operative's request to try to obtain leniency for two pro-Israel lobbyists in exchange for the agent's help in lobbying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to name her chairman of the intelligence committee. The department, a former U.S. official said, declined to respond to the subpoena. Harman said that the ethics committee has not contacted her and that she has no knowledge that the subpoena was ever issued. "I don't believe that's true," she said. "As far as I'm concerned, this smear has been over for three years."

In June 2009, a Justice Department official wrote in a letter to an attorney for Harman that she was "neither a subject nor a target" of a criminal investigation. Because of the secretive nature of the ethics committee, it was difficult to assess the current status of the investigations cited in the July document. However the panel said that it is ending a probe of Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) after finding no ethical violations, and that it is investigating the financial connections of two California Democrats.

The committee did not detail the two newly disclosed investigations. However, according to the July document, Rep. Maxine Waters, a high-ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, came under scrutiny because of activities involving OneUnited Bank of Massachusetts, in which her husband owns at least $250,000 in stock. Waters arranged a September 2008 meeting at the Treasury Department where OneUnited executives asked for government money. In December, Treasury selected OneUnited as an early participant in the bank bailout program, injecting $12.1 million. The other, Rep. Laura Richardson, may have failed to mention property, income and liabilities on financial disclosure forms.

The committee's review of investigations became available on file-sharing networks because of a junior staff member's use of the software while working from home, Lofgren and Bonner said in a statement issued on the night of Thursday, October 29. The staffer was fired, a congressional aide said. The committee "is taking all appropriate steps to deal with this issue," they said, noting that neither the committee nor the House's information systems were breached in any way. "Peer-to-peer" technology has previously caused inadvertent breaches of sensitive financial, defense-related and personal data from government and commercial networks, and it is prohibited on House networks.

House administration rules require that if a lawmaker or staff member takes work home, "all users of House sensitive information must protect the confidentiality of sensitive information" from unauthorized disclosure. Leo Wise, chief counsel for the Office of Congressional Ethics, declined to comment, citing office policy against confirming or denying the existence of investigations. A Justice Department spokeswoman also declined to comment, citing a similar policy. Staff writers Carol D. Leonnig and Joby Warrick and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Still after receiving a referral from the Office of Congressional Ethics, the House ethics committee announced in June that it would create an investigative subcommittee to look into "officially connected travel in 2007 and 2008 that was sponsored, funded or organized by an organization known as Carib News or Carib News Foundation." The panel publicly named five Democratic lawmakers who were under scrutiny -- Reps. Charles B. Rangel (N.Y.), Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (Mich.), Donald M. Payne (N.J.) and Bennie Thompson (Miss.), and Del. Donna M. Christian-Christensen (U.S. Virgin Islands). The inquiry stemmed from reports in the Hill and the New York Post newspapers raising questions about an annual conference at a St. Maarten resort that the lawmakers attended.

The members' official disclosure forms listed the New York Carib Foundation or Carib News Foundation, a nonprofit group affiliated with a New York-based newspaper, as the sponsor of the event. Because of that information, the ethics committee approved the trip before it occurred. But an official with the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative watchdog group, attended the 2008 event and came back with photos and other evidence suggesting that AT&T, Citigroup, IBM, Pfizer and Verizon may have played a role in sponsoring the conference.

The ethics panel also reportedly is scrutinizing a 2007 trip to Antigua and Barbuda that some of the same members took. Under more stringent rules imposed in 2006, House members are not allowed to accept travel paid for by corporations, but they can take trips sponsored by nonprofit groups. The rules have sparked some confusion over the past three years, as it remains unclear what exactly it means for a particular group or company to "sponsor" an event. All of the lawmakers being investigated regarding the Carib News trip belong to the Congressional Black Caucus, and the group has met to discuss whether its members are being unfairly targeted for ethics inquiries. The ethics investigative subcommittee looking into the Caribbean trips is chaired by Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), who also is a member of the CBC and took a Carib News-sponsored trip before the 2006 rules were imposed.

The ethics investigation appears to be ongoing, and the committee document gives no details about how far the investigation has progressed. An aide to Christian-Christensen said her boss had been contacted by the ethics committee but declined to comment further. Kilpatrick said in a statement released by her office that she had provided testimony and a written statement to the ethics subcommittee. Rangel, who also is under investigation on several unrelated fronts, said this week that he has discussed the Caribbean trip inquiry with the ethics panel.

House ethics committee investigators have interviewed Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee whose personal finances have been under investigation for more than a year, a committee document from July reveals. Committee staff met with Rangel in late July. In an interview with The Washington Post, the lawmaker said the meeting concerned only a recent trip to the Caribbean island of St. Maarten that he and four members of the Congressional Black Caucus took last November. Rangel said he has not been interviewed by the committee to discuss other elements of the investigation, which involve his personal finances and whether House resources were improperly used to raise funds for a college center named for him.

However, committee staff members have taken a trip to the New York City housing offices, according to the ethics committee document. One of the allegations against Rangel is that he was breaking the city's rent control rules by occupying multiple units in a rent-controlled building in Harlem. One unit may have inappropriately served as a political office for the congressman, according to the allegations. Rangel has denied any wrongdoing and requested the investigation himself after a series of media reports in 2008 also revealed the lawmaker had not paid taxes on a villa in the Caribbean and used his congressional office to raise millions of dollars for the research center at City College of New York. The center was named in his honor and was funded partly through donations from corporations with potential business before his committee.

The investigation has expanded into several other areas of his finances, including his decision to amend financial disclosure forms earlier this year revealing accounts that held more than $500,000 in them that had not been previously disclosed. The committee also has interviewed Rangel's top aide, James Capel, who in July belatedly filed several years' worth of financial disclosure. The most senior aides must file the same disclosure reports just as lawmakers do every spring.

The committee also has interviewed Steven Rangel, the lawmaker's son. The document does not make clear what the interview covered. News reports last year said that his father's campaign committee paid nearly $60,000 to an Internet consulting firm owned by Steven Rangel. He now works as an aide to the House oversight committee. Republicans have asked for the congressman to step down as chairman of the powerful committee while the investigation is ongoing and forced votes on resolutions to strip him of the gavel. Those efforts have failed largely on party-line votes. Rangel declined to detail what he told the committee in his interview. "I have gathered that the best way to deal with this is to talk as little as possible -- except with the lawyer," he said.

Nonetheless Rangel isn’t the only Congressional Black Caucus member who the House ethics committee announced on Thursday, October 29 afternoon that it had voted to establish a subcommittee to investigate Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who is under scrutiny for her ties to a bank that received federal bailout money. Waters's husband, Sidney Waters, previously served on the board of OneUnited Bank and owned between $100,000 and $250,000 worth of stock in the bank as of 2008, according to Waters's latest financial disclosure form. The subcommittee will look into whether Waters violated any laws or House rules when she arranged a September 2008 meeting at the Treasury Department for OneUnited, which was seeking federal help, and other minority-owned banks.

Treasury officials said they were not aware of Waters's ties to the bank when the meeting occurred, according to multiple press reports. OneUnited eventually got $12 million in federal funds through the Troubled Asset Relief Program. In a statement released by her office on Thursday, October 29, 2009 Waters said: "My longtime advocacy on behalf of women- and minority-owned institutions is well known and appreciated by these institutions, which have been historically denied access to government regulators to address their concerns. I am confident that as the investigation moves forward the panel will discover that there are no facts to support allegations that I have acted improperly or violated the Code of Official Conduct or any law, rule, regulation or other standard of conduct in performing my duties and discharging my responsibilities as a United States Representative."

The fact that the panel was probing Waters was made public in September, but Thursday's October 29 announcement signifies that the committee believes there is sufficient cause to escalate the investigation. The investigative subcommittee will be chaired by Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), and Rep. K. Michael Conaway (Tex.) will serve as the ranking Republican.

Also nearly half the members of a powerful House subcommittee in control of Pentagon spending are under scrutiny by ethics investigators in Congress, who have trained their lens on the relationships between seven panel members and an influential lobbying firm founded by a former Capitol Hill aide. The investigations by two separate ethics offices include an examination of the chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on defense, John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), as well as others who helped steer federal funds to clients of the PMA Group. The lawmakers received campaign contributions from the firm and its clients. A document obtained by The Washington Post shows that the subcommittee members under scrutiny also include Peter J. Visclosky (D-Ind.), James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) , C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.).

The document also indicates that the House ethics committee's staff recently interviewed the staff of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) about his allegation that a PMA lobbyist threatened him in 2007 when he resisted steering federal funds to a PMA client. The lobbyist told a Nunes staffer that if the lawmaker didn't help, the defense contractor would move out of Nunes's district and take dozens of jobs with him. The document obtained by The Post offers the most detailed picture yet of a widening inquiry into the relationships between lawmakers and PMA, a lobbying firm founded by Paul Magliocchetti that has been under criminal investigation by the Justice Department. A year ago, the FBI raided PMA's offices and carted away boxes of records dealing with its political donations and the firm's efforts to win congressionally directed funds, known as "earmarks," for clients.

The document shows that both the ethics committee and the Office of Congressional Ethics are looking into the matter. The OCE investigates and makes recommendations to the House ethics committee, which has the power to subpoena and sanction lawmakers. Internal ethics investigations of members of Congress are normally confidential, but The Post learned details of their work through the document, which became available on a file-sharing network. Under the description of the OCE inquiry, the document says investigators are looking at House members who may have been "accepting contributions or other items of value from PMA's PAC in exchange for an official act." A Hill source cautioned that the ethics committee has not gathered a significant amount of material and has not zeroed in on specific lawmakers.

Together, the seven legislators have personally steered more than $200 million in earmarks to clients of the PMA Group in the past two years, and received more than $6.2 million in campaign contributions from PMA and its clients in the past decade, according to an analysis by Congressional Quarterly and Taxpayers for Common Sense. The Post reviewed earmark and campaign records and found that the seven had each supported funding for PMA clients and also received donations. Young has recently received very little from PMA. Under some political pressure, the House ethics committee disclosed in June that it had an ongoing investigation into this matter. The move came days after the FBI subpoenaed Visclosky's office for records relating to PMA and as other House members called for the ethics committee to act. The committee did not disclose the members it was scrutinizing then, and the specific details of the OCE's work have not been publicly known.

While lawmakers received generous contributions, PMA used its growing influence with the panel over the past decade to become one of the top 10 lobby shops in Washington and took in $114 million in lobbying fees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group. The chairman of the House ethics committee, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), initially declined to verify that the document The Post obtained was generated by the ethics committee. Late Thursday, October 29, 2009 she issued a statement explaining how it had been accidentally released by a low-level staffer through a file-sharing network. She declined to discuss the PMA probe and said many lawmakers may be under review by the committee at any point in time. "No inference to any misconduct can be made from the fact that a matter is simply before the Committee," she said in her statement.

The OCE has interviewed some of the lawmakers, including Kaptur last week and Moran a few weeks ago. It has invited others in for interviews, such as Visclosky, and posed numerous questions to the members' staff. Moran, a senior member of the defense panel whose former top aide went to work for the PMA Group, said he recently sat for a lengthy interview with two aides from the OCE. He said he asked the new ethics office to interview all of his current and former staff members, including his former chief of staff who became a PMA lobbyist, Melissa Koloszar. "I said they should be interviewed separately, privately and completely," he said. "We wanted them to investigate."

Several Hill staffers said they are confused by what appears to be a dual track, with the OCE and the ethics committee simultaneously pursuing similar questions. Kaptur's spokesman said her office does not understand the duplication but is happy to answer all questions. "The congresswoman has always emphasized openness and transparency, and it almost goes without saying she will continue to cooperate with the OCE and, if it goes to the [ethics committee], with that committee as well," said Kaptur spokesman Steve Fought. "She has nothing to hide."

Murtha's office declined to comment. The offices and representatives of Dicks, Visclosky, Young and Tiahart did not respond to questions about the scrutiny. As the ethics committee began gathering evidence this summer about PMA's operating methods on Capitol Hill, it contacted the office of Nunes, who had earlier complained to the committee about a lobbyist's aggressiveness in seeking an earmark. Nunes agreed to comment on the incident when The Post asked him about detailed information it had obtained about his complaint. "I didn't appreciate being threatened," Nunes said. "To me, it was a symptom of the disease we have in Congress, where a lot of members have simply gotten addicted to contributions from companies that are getting their earmarks."

Don Fleming, the PMA lobbyist who allegedly threatened Nunes, is now at Flagship Government Relations, a firm started by several departed PMA lobbyists. Fleming did not confirm the encounter, but he said in a statement that "an important responsibility of any government relations professional is to communicate to policymakers the impact that their decisions have on our clients." He added that he has "always adhered to the strictest code of professional ethics." Moran said he continued to believe that Magliocchetti was a good lobbyist who knew that he had to get Defense Department backing for the earmarks he was seeking from Capitol Hill. Describing him as "the only Democratic defense [lobbyist] for the most part," Moran said Magliocchetti also was someone Democrats naturally turned to for fundraising help from the military contractor community.

"When you needed to raise money for the Democratic campaign committee, he was always the first one you went to," Moran said, adding, "I don't know how he raised his money." Moran hosted an event for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in his Alexandria home last year, the lawmaker said, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as the guest of honor. Magliocchetti and some of his clients were in attendance, writing checks for $28,500 each, Moran said.

Still congressional ethics are called into further question because currently while there have been 36 or more inquiries into House members conduct but there are only 7 actual open investigations underway. Some are calling that it is racial disparity because all active ethics probes focus on black lawmakers. In fact the House ethics committee is currently investigating seven African-American lawmakers — more than 15 percent of the total in the House. And an eighth black member, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), would be under investigation if the Justice Department hadn’t asked the committee to stand down. Not a single white lawmaker is currently the subject of a full-scale ethics committee probe.

The ethics committee declined to respond to questions about the racial disparity, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus are wary of talking about it on the record. But privately, some black members are outraged — and see in the numbers a worrisome trend in the actions of ethics watchdogs on and off Capitol Hill. “Is there concern whether someone is trying to set up [Congressional Black Caucus] members? Yeah, there is,” a black House Democrat said. “It looks as if there is somebody out there who understands what the rules [are] and sends names to the ethics committee with the goal of going after the [CBC].”

African-American politicians have long complained that they’re treated unfairly when ethical issues arise. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are still fuming over Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to oust then-Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) from the House Ways and Means Committee in 2006, and some have argued that race plays a role in the ongoing efforts to remove Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) from his chairmanship of that committee. Actions taken by the House ethics committee two weeks ago are sure to add fuel to the fire. The committee — which has one African-American lawmaker, Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), among its 10 members — on Thursday, October 29, 2009 considered three referrals from the recently formed Office of Congressional Ethics. It dismissed a case against Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), who is white, but agreed to open full-blown investigations of California Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters and Laura Richardson, both of whom are black.

The committee was already investigating five other African-Americans. Rangel is the subject of two different probes, one involving a host of issues he has put before the committee and another involving allegations that corporate funds may have been used improperly to pay for members’ trips to the Caribbean in 2007-08. Reps. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Donald Payne (D-N.J.) and Del. Donna Christensen (D-U.S. Virgin Islands) are also included in the second of those investigations. A document leaked to The Washington Post two weeks ago showed that nearly three dozen lawmakers have come under scrutiny this year by either the House ethics committee or the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent watchdog created in 2008 at the insistence of Pelosi. While the list contained a substantial number of white lawmakers, the ethics committee has not yet launched formal investigative subcommittees with respect to any of them — as it has with the seven African-American members.

The OCE has also been a particular target of ire for the Congressional Black Caucus. Black lawmakers, including CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), met with OCE officials earlier this year to raise their concerns. Spokesmen for Lee and the OCE both declined to comment. A number of CBC members opposed the resolution establishing the OCE, arguing that it was the wrong response to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, which helped Democrats seize control of the House in 2006. Setting up the OCE “was a mistake,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) told The Hill newspaper recently. “Congress has a long and rich history of overreacting to a crisis.”

Cleaver, though, now finds himself part of the four-member subcommittee that will investigate Waters, who voted against the OCE. Waters is being probed over her intervention with the Treasury Department on behalf of a minority-owned bank in which her husband served on the board and owned at least $250,000 in stock. While she has flatly denied engaging in any unethical or improper behavior in her dealings with OneUnited, Waters was described by colleagues and Democratic aides as “livid” over the ethics committee’s decision to investigate her. “She was hopping mad,” a Democratic lawmaker said of Waters. “She feels this is a complete miscarriage of justice.”

Another CBC member said black lawmakers are “easy targets” for ethics watchdog groups because they have less money — both personally and in their campaign accounts — to defend themselves than do their white colleagues. Campaign funds can be used to pay members’ legal bills. “A lot of that has to do with outside watchdog groups like [Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington] that have to have a level of success to justify OCE,” the CBC member said. The good-government groups were strong backers of the OCE’s creation. But these same groups won’t go after Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), this lawmaker claimed, “because she has plenty of money to defend herself,” and the outside groups don’t want to take a risk. The Democrat said the ethics committee would be going up against Harman’s lawyers and “going up against” the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee if they push the OCE to pressure the ethics committee to act.

Harman was allegedly recorded on a 2005 federal wiretap discussing with an Israeli operative her bid to become Intelligence Committee chairwoman. Harman has denied any wrongdoing, but an attempt by the ethics committee to get a transcript of the taped call was rebuffed by the Justice Department. What especially galled black lawmakers was that the ethics committee voted to move forward with the Waters and Richardson probes following the OCE referrals, while Graves — who OCE also thought should be investigated by the ethics committee — saw his case dismissed.

Even worse, the ethics committee issued a 541-page document explaining why it wouldn’t look into allegations that Graves invited a witness to testify before the Small Business Committee — on which he sits — without revealing his financial ties to that witness. “It is kind of crazy,” said an aide to one senior black Democrat. “How can it be that the ethics committee only investigates African-Americans? It doesn’t make sense.” White lawmakers have certainly been the subject of ethics committee investigations before. Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) was admonished by the committee for his dealings with corporate lobbyists, while ex-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) was the target of an investigation over his dealings with teenage male House pages in late 2006. Foley resigned after the sex scandal was revealed.

And the document leaked to the Post two weeks ago showed that a number of white lawmakers — including senior House Appropriations Committee members John Murtha (D-Pa.), Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) and Jim Moran (D-Va.) — have drawn the attention of the committee and the OCE. The two congressional ethics watchdogs are looking into these members’ ties to the PMA Group, a now-defunct lobbying firm that won tens of millions of dollars in earmarks from members of the Appropriations Committee. The lawmakers who arranged for the earmarks received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from PMA’s lobbying clients.

But it seems unlikely that the PMA case will become the subject of a full-blown ethics committee investigation. The Justice Department is also looking into the PMA allegations; the FBI raided PMA’s office last year, and Visclosky and his former chief of staff have been served with document subpoenas. And under ethics committee rules, the panel cannot conduct an investigation of any member or staffer already being probed by a law enforcement agency. Plus the nation’s only black senator, Roland Burris of Illinois, is currently under investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee. It’s not clear whether that committee is currently investigating any white members, although Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) is likely to be in its sights if the Justice Department doesn’t pre-empt a committee investigation.

So it seems as if congressional ethics might have some racial disparity as well as a whole lot of explaining to do in regards to why inquiries have been taken into 36 or congressional leaders but only 8 full blown open investigations are taking place and all 8 being Congressional Black Caucus members. Now this includes both the House and Senate investigations currently taking place and something about all of this just doesn’t sound right. Thus many watchdog groups are now calling ethics probes in Congress into question since little of the probes have lead to the removal of barely any Congressional leaders over the years. The calls for Congressional members to remove their own colleagues who violate the law are growing and let’s hope the latest leaks of ethical misconducts makes more citizens outrage and make Congress act more strongly in trying to remove some of their own colleagues regardless of race or ethnic background.

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Jay-Z - History



(Jay-Z - History)Jay-Z - History with Lyrics

LYRICS : [Chorus: Cee-lo]
Now that all the smoke is gone
(Lighter)
And the battle's finally won
(Gimme a lighter)
Victory (Lighters up) is finally ours
(Lighters up)
History, so long, so long
So long, so long

[Verse 1: Jay-Z]
In search of victory, she keeps eluding me
If only we could be together momentarily
We can make love and make history
Why won't you visit me? until she visit me
I'll be stuck with her sister, her name is defeat
She gives me agony, so much agony
She brings me so much pain, so much misery
Like missing your last shot and falling to your knees
As the crowd screams for the other team
I practice so hard for this moment, victory don't leave
I know what this means, I'm stuck in this routine
Whole new different day, same old thing
All I got is dreams, nobody else can see
Nobody else believes, nobody else but me
Where are you victory? I need you desperately
Not just for the moment, to make history

[Chorus: Cee-lo]
Now that all the smoke is gone
(Lighters)
And the battle's finally won
(Lighters)
Victory is finally ours
(Yeah)
History (yeah), so long, so long
So long, so long

[Verse 2: Jay-Z]
So now I'm flirting with death, hustling like a G
While victory wasn't watching took chances repeatedly
As a teenage boy before acne, before I got proactiv I couldn't face she
I just threw on my hoodie and headed to the street
That's where I met success, we'd live together shortly
Now success is like lust, she's good to the touch
She's good for the moment but she's never enough
Everybody's had her, she's nothing like V
But success is all I got unfortunately
But I'm burning down the block hoppin' in and out of V
But something tells me that there's much more to see
Before I get killed because I can't get robbed
So before me success and death ménage
I gotta get lost, I gotta find V
We gotta be together to make history

[Chorus: Cee-lo]
Now that all the smoke is gone
(Lighters. Up.)
And the battle's finally won
(Lighter. Up.)
Victory is finally ours
(Lighters. Up.)
History, so long, so long
So long, so long

[Verse 3: Jay-Z]
Now victory is mine, it tastes so sweet
She's my trophy wife, you're coming with me
We'll have a baby who stutters repeatedly
We'll name him history, he'll repeat after me
He's my legacy, son of my hard work
Future of my past, he'll explain who I be
Rank me amongst the greats, either 1, 2, or 3
If I ain't number one then I failed you victory
Ain't in it for the fame that dies within weeks
Ain't in it for the money, can't take it when you leave
I wanna be remembered long after you grieve
Long after I'm gone, long after I breathe
I leave all I am in the hands of history
That's my last will and testimony
This is much more than a song, it's a baby shower
I've been waiting for this hour, history you ours


[Chorus: Cee-lo (2x)]
Now that all the smoke is gone
And the battle's finally won
Victory is finally ours
History, so long, so long
So long, so long



Man in the Mirror--By Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson - Man in the mirror

I'm gonna make a change,
for once im my life
It's gonna feel real good,
gonna make a diference
Gonna make it right...

As I, turn up the collar on
my favorite winter coat
This wind is blowing my mind
I see the kids in the streets,
with not enought to eat
Who am I to be blind?
Pretending not to see their needs

A summer disregard,a broken bottle top
And a one man soul
They follow each other on the wind ya' know
'Cause they got nowhere to go
That's why I want you to know

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
(If you wanna make the world a better place)
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
(Take a look at yourself, and then make a change)
(Na na na, na na na, na na, na nah)

I've been a victim of a selfish kind of love
It's time that I realize
That there are some with no home, not a nickel to loan
Could it be really me, pretending that they're not alone?

A willow deeply scarred, somebody's broken heart
And a washed-out dream
(Washed-out dream)
They follow the pattern of the wind ya' see
'Cause they got no place to be
That's why I'm starting with me
(Starting with me!)

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
(Ooh!)
I'm asking him to change his ways
(Ooh!)
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
(If you wanna make the world a better place)
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
(Take a look at yourself, and then make a change)

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
(Ooh!)
I'm asking him to change his ways
(Change his ways - ooh!)
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make that..
(Take a look at yourself and then make that..)
CHANGE!

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
(Man in the mirror - Oh yeah!)
I'm asking him to change his ways
(Better change!)
No message could have been any clearer
(If you wanna make the world a better place)


Michael Jackson - Man in the mirror

A Change is Gonna Come by Sam Cook






It's been a long time coming but a change is surely going to come in America and the World! I am the Future of America and the World and that is the message that each of us must carry with us each and every day that we wake up on Earth! I am the Future! You are the Future! We are the Future of America and the World! That is way every election is important--primaries, special elections and general! So vote every year and hold our politicians accountable. Hold our political officials accountable by writing them, calling them and making sure they attend meetings that we the people have. "The Time for Change is not Now but Right Now!"

"EmPOWERment By Any Means Necessary" should be our anthem and should be our creed as we make the positive differences in America and the world that so many people beg for and hungry for year after year! A Change is Gonna Come, A Change is Gonna Come, that's what we must say as we say "God grants us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, Courge to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference" each morning before we go about the task of making a positive change in America and the world a reality.



Born In The U.S.A. - Bruce Springsteen


“When will people realize that we are Americans first and foremost, not Democrats or Liberals, not Republicans or Conservatives, not Independents or moderates. We are Americans. Stop putting a political party above America and stop putting any politican above America. America succeeds because of us the people holding our government responsible no matter the political party because the main two political parties are to blame for the condition America is in."—Hodari P.T. Brown

America with its flaws and all is a country I am proud to have been born in. America is not perfect but my love for it is perfect. That’s why all Americans must realize that we are all Americans. In fact we are Americans first and foremost. We are not Democrats or Republicans. We are Americans.

We are not Muslims, Christians or Jews. We are Americans. Too many times we recognize our differences with others rather than appreciating our similarities which are, we are Americans. We are Americans first and foremost, no matter if we were born here or moved here legally. We are all Americans, here in this country to make not only our lives better but the lives of other Americans better so future Americans can enjoy the rights and freedoms that make us all Americans.

We are all Americans. We are one party united under God. We are Americans and this is the only political party that matters. We are Americans and this is our country so let’s make sure that we make America better than how we found it so future Americans can live prosperous and joyous lives. We are Americans and must not ever forget that.

America will prosper as long we make sure we are doing our part to make it prosper and that means we can’t put any political party or politician above America. Long live America forever and long live America’s service to the world. Together, America and the world will prosper for future generations to enjoy America and the world we live in.


Lift Every Voice and Sing


This video of the ' Negro National Anthem' was originally screened at the historic African-American Church Inaugural Ball in Washington, DC on January 18th, 2009. Many of the esteemed individuals featured in this video in attendance and we presented with the ' Keepers of the Flame' award for the monumental contributions to social justice.

This version of the song was performed by the Grace Baptist Church Cathedral Choir, conducted by Derrick James. The video was produced and donated by Ascender Communications, LLC (www.ascender-c.com) at the request of The Balm In Gilead, Inc.

If I Was President--Wyclef Jean




If I was President that is the people's anthem. We all have ideas of what we can do as President and through this website, we will fulfill our deam as a people!

Somethings Gotta Give--Big Boi ft Mary J Blige



Somethings Gotta Give people and it begins today for all us to make sure that something is us. We the people are sick and tired of suffering. Where is our piece of the Dream that so many people dead for so that we all could see today. This is our time people to change America and the world so that the Next Generation has a better future than the past we inherited.

This is our call to service. This isn't about one political candidate or one political figure. This is about us as people coming together to finally leave up to our potential and achieving the great feats that those before us have achieved. This is our moment to lead our nation and our world to greater heights.

Somethings gotta give people and it starts with us the people making it happen. We have to improve our education system in America. We have to rid the world of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We have to go to the streets and lift a hand to another in order to decrease poverty in this world. We have to take a stand today and make sure that the future of America and the world is brighter than it has ever been.

Somethings Gotta Give and that is why we must "Remember Each One, Reach One and Teach One so America's future and the World's future continues to prosper."

John Legend - "If You're Out There"


If you're out there than you need to get started in helping to change America and the world. The world and America won't change until you get involved in making the changes you want to see in this world. If you're out there, than you must know that tomorrow started now and today started yesterday so you are behind in helping to the change. If you are tired of hatred, racism, poverty, war, and violence than the time to change it is now. If you want universal health care, world peace, democracy for every nation, equal rights, and happiness for all than you must get involved now to help the save world.

You must believe in the change that you want to see and you must act on making that change a reality. If you're out there than say it aloud and show the rest of America and the world that you're out here to make a real positive change in the communities we stay in. If you're out there than get involved now. I'm calling every women and men to join me as we take back our country right here, right now. If you're out there than the future started yersterday and we are already late so we have lots of work to do but I know we can do it together as one.

YES WE CAN



Yes We Can accomplish anything that we set out to do! We don't need charismatic or inspirational leaders to believe in ourselves and to take responsiblity for our own faith, we just need each other. Yes We Can build a new America and a new world if each of us would take action now to make the changes that we want to see in the world. Yes We Can control government by holding our political officials accountable for their actions by calling them out when they don't pass legislation that supports the common good of all man and by voting in every election to ensure that we have people representing the people locally, state wide, nationally and in the world.

Yes We Can be great! Yes We Can be what we want to be! Yes We Can be glorious in not only America but the world! Yes We can put action behind our worlds and change the world starting right here, right now! Yes We Can as Republicans, Democrats and Independents become one as we freely think about our fellow men and women and make decisions that will be in the best interest of all people and not one single group.

Yes We Can be the change that we want to see in the world! Yes We Can show the world that the youth are ready to lead! Yes We Can put our egos, our social economic statuses, our religions, our educational statuses and our skin color to the side for the better good of the world! Yes We Can be Greater than we have ever been and help others be Greater than they have ever be!

YES WE CAN and YES WE WILL BE VICTORIOUS IN ALL THAT WE DO! YES WE CAN, no matter what others may say, we will be glorious! YES WE WILL and YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN!

YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN is what will be sung from every mountaintop, every riverbank, every household, every school yard, every factory, every sporting event, every college campus and even every place you can imagine in the world is where YES WE CAN, will be said and heard!

YES WE CAN!

Keep On Pushing - Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions


Wake Up People! No matter who is elected to any public office, we have to “Keep On Pushing” as a people to make sure they don’t leave us in a worst state than what they inherited. We as a people have to “Keep On Pushing” to make a difference in the lives of others. We have to have an “EmPOWERment By Any Means Necessary” attitude as we continue to push our agenda that we the people deserve and want better. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to bring about change in a positive way that will benefit all Americans no matter their age, their religion or skin color. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to bring about change that will improve our education system, improve our military, improve our national security, improve our healthcare system and improve our economy. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to bring about change that will leave America’s future in a better than how we found it and that will leave the world’s future in a better state than we imagined we could live it. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to make life better for our neighborhoods, our families and even our quote on quote enemies. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to inspire, to uplift and to guide those who need help spiritually, physically and mentally. We have to “Keep On Pushing ” so that our lives, our future generation’s lives and the lives of those who came before us does not die in vein.

“Keep on Pushing”

A War For Your Soul

A War For Your Soul-regular version from Erisai Films on Vimeo.


The moment has come for us as a nation of people to finally wake up and realize that our destiny and fate in society has rests on our shoulders. We cannot allow the forces of evil and darkness to drain us out. We have to continue to overcome all odds in order to make the future of our nation better and the future of future generations of Americans better. We have to continue to pray to our Lord and we have to continue to uplift each other in prayer as well as take action against those things that are trying to destroy us. We have to stand up once and for all and be the future that we want to be. Now is our time and we shall do together by any means necessary.

This video was created to inspire young African-Americans not to fall prey to some of the problems they face in society. The use of the voice "Master of Darkness" represents evil, which is where the blame of all problems should be placed, and not on any one group of people. This video should not to be used to divide people (Black & White), there are images of heroes that are white in this video, and there are images of Black & White coming together with the words of Dr. King in the background. Some of the images from the past can be unsettling, but they are used to show all Americans how far we have come, and how far we still have to go. This film is being strategically placed in school systems, churches and youth orgs around the country, in hope of helping a lost generation of kids that we as Americans have forgotten. As fellow Americans we must continue to love each other, and take that love and spread it to the rest of the world. **THIS VIDEO IS NOT FOR SALE & I AM NOT ACCEPTING DONATIONS FOR THE FILM, I ONLY WANT THE MESSAGE TO REACH AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE WITHOUT ANY HIDDEN POLITICAL OR FINANCIAL AGENDA.
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Sitting On the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding



"The time for sitting is over! The time for action is now! The time for hope without action is hopeless! The time for change without a positive attitude is a change that we can't believe in! We need change that is positive of helping all people! Our time for action is now, our time for hope is now, our time for change is now and our time to believe that we can do whatever we set our minds to is not now but right now!"

STAR SPANGLED BANNER


The Star-Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key

O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming;
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?


On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, now conceals, now discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream;
'Tis the star-spangled banner; O long may it wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave,
From the terror of flight and the gloom of the grave;
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!


O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land,
Praise the power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just.
And this be our motto— "In God is our trust; "
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

Black President



Our Time is not now but Right Now! Our Time has finally come to change the world not now but Right Now! If you don't believe that we can change the world than watch as we do it by changing your mind into believing in us and what we can do! This is OUR TIME RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!

FIGHT THE POWER



We got to FIGHT THE POWER! We can no longer sit on the sidelines and watch injustices take place. We can no longer sit by and allow our right to vote to become unexercised. We must FIGHT THE POWER for our past, present and future! We can no longer allow our rights to be oppressed and our voice to become drained by the powers at be. We must FIGHT THE POWER and show that we have a lot to say that needs to be heard by the mainstream media. We must FIGHT THE POWER and live up to our potential as dynamic, unbelievable and phenomenal people.


We must not believe the hype but we must become the hype. We are not Harriett Tubman, Marcus Garvey, MLK, Malcolm X, Booker T. Washington, Carter G. Woodson, W.E.B. DuBois, the Black Panther Party, SNCC, or any other activists but we are the fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, uncles, aunties, and relatives of those who came before us to pave the way for us to FIGHT THE POWER! We are not next Generation of leaders who will not be honored and praised until they die but that’s the fight we accept. We are not fighting the power for glory or fame but we are fighting the power for just causes that most men and women will not understand until years or decades later.


We are fighting for our sisters and brothers in Darfur, Georgia, Iraq, Iran, China and Mexico. We are speaking for those who are poor and have no food or water. We are fighting for those who are sick and dying. We are fighting for universal healthcare across the world and human rights for all people. We are fighting for rich and poor! We must FIGHT THE POWER no matter how hard and tough the road may be. We must FIGHT THE POWER for a better today and an even greater tomorrow!


FIGHT THE POWER!

PEOPLE GET READY


“People Get Ready” our time is coming! We have come too far to turn back now. Our train is coming and it is coming in waves. “People Get Ready”, we don’t need a ticket but we need faith and the Lord will help guide us as we take back America and the world. “People Get Ready” our moment is now and we are ready to see the change we want in America and the world. All we got to do is have faith, hope and prosperity. “People Get Ready” to face your fears. “People Get Ready” to face your demons and the challenges of yesterday because today and tomorrow we will conquer & be victorious. “People Get Ready” a change is coming and our actions will make sure that change is a real positive change that lasts forever.


“People Get Ready” because we have had enough of just talking but now is our time to show action. “People Get Ready” to take back America and the world. “People Get Ready” to take back our communities and to make our streets safer and schools better. “People Get Ready” to make all our dreams come true. “People Get Ready” to see a better present for everyone and a better future for future generations. “People Get Ready” to live up to your potential and to help others live up to their own potential. “People Get Ready” to move past hatred, bigotry, racism and sexism. “People Get Ready” to fulfill the dreams of those who came before us and those who will come after us.


“People Get Ready” as we make our actions speak louder than our words. “People Get Ready” to make words mean something again as we put action to back up our rhetoric. “People Get Ready” as we embark on a new journey that will re-write America’s history as well as the world’s history. “People Get Ready” as we make the lives of others better and the lives of future generations better. “People Get Ready” because all we need is faith, hope and action to make this world a better place. “People Get Ready” to make a difference. “People Get Ready” to fulfill the American dream. “People Get Ready" to live out the American Dream as our founding fathers wanted us to live it. “People Get Ready” because our time is now, our moment is now and our moment in time to change America & the world is not now but right now. “People Get Ready” because a change is coming!


Alicia]
(Let me tell you now)
People get ready, there's a train comin'
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'
You don't need no ticket, you just thank the lord

[Lyfe]
People get ready, for a train to Jordan
Picking up passengers coast to coast
Faith is the key, open the doors and board them
There's hope for all among those loved the most

[Alicia]
There ain't no room for the hopeless sinner
Who would hurt all man kind just to save his own (believe me now)
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner
For there's no hiding place against the kingdoms throne

[Alicia & Lyfe]
So people get ready there's a train coming
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels humming,
You don't need no ticket, you just thank the lord


“PEOPLE GET READY!”

God Bless the U.S.A. by Lee Greenwood


Lee Greenwood-god bless the U.S.A