Ethics committee fallout: Photos of lawmakers on 2008 Caribbean trip

The Hill reported in 2008 that Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus attended Caribbean trips in 2007 and 2008 that appeared to break House rules barring corporate sponsorship of member travel.

On Thursday, the House ethics committee Thursday admonished Rangel for the trips, finding that he improperly received reimbursement for the trips because his staff knew about corporate sponsorship of the travel.

Other members who attended were exonerated by the ethics committee, which found those lawmakers and their aides were unaware of the corporate sponsors.

Photos of a conference and transcripts of members speeches made at the Sonesta Maho Bay Resort & Casino resort, where the business conference was held in St. Maarten, clearly show corporate sponsorship of the 2008 event.

Besides Rangel, Democratic Reps. Carolyn Kilpatrick (Mich.), Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeComey: House Republicans 'came up empty today but will try again' GOP, Comey have tense day — with promise of a second date House Dems worry about lack of women of color in leadership MORE (Texas), Donald Payne (N.J.), Bennie Thompson (Miss.) and Virgin Islands Del. Donna Christensen attended the event.

The conservative National Legal and Policy Center’s president, Peter Flaherty, traveled to St. Maarten and found evidence that corporate sponsors paid for the conference.

House rules imposed by Democrats after they took back the House in 2006 bar lawmakers from accepting travel lasting more than two days if corporations that “employ or retain a registered lobbyist” are underwriting or organizing any part of them.

Lawmakers who attended listed the New York Carib Foundation, a nonprofit group affiliated with a newspaper aimed at New York City’s U.S. Caribbean immigrant community, as the sponsor.

But photos and transcripts taken by Flaherty show evidence of corporate involvement. Several banners above and below the main podium included corporate logos of Pfizer, Citigroup, IBM, Verizon, AT&T, Macy’s and American Airlines. Flaherty also heard Kilpatrick and Payne thank business “sponsors.”

Payne on Thursday said he thought the ethics committee’s exoneration of him was the right decision, but would not comment on whether he thanked the corporate sponsors during his speech at the conference.