Waldorf Astoria Opens In Trump’s Former Palace

Welcome to the Checks & Imbalances newsletter. Today, we look at a couple of congressmen facing ethics investigations as well as the successor to Trump’s D.C. hotel.


House Ethics Office: ‘Substantial Reason To Believe’ Two Congressman Violated Ethics Laws

The House Office of Congressional Ethics found “substantial reason to believe” Congressmen Pat Fallon (R-Texas) and John Rutherford (R-Fla.) violated House ethics rules for failing to disclose stock trades in a timely manner, according to documents released Tuesday.

Probes into the possible violations have moved on to the bipartisan House Committee on Ethics for further review. Unlike the independent, nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics, that 10-member panel is empowered to subpoena and sanction House members.

The office’s board was split on similar allegations against Rep. Chris Jacobs (R-N.Y.).

The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, or STOCK Act, requires representatives to report their securities transactions to the House Clerk’s office within 45 days. Fallon failed to file timely disclosures for 122 transactions valued at more than $9 million between January and December 2021, according to the report. Between January 2017 and December 2021, Rutherford made late disclosures of 157 trades worth at least $652,000, according to the House ethics office. Both congressmen declined to be interviewed by investigators.

An attorney for Fallon and Rutherford, Kate Belinski, acknowledged that the lawmakers were late to disclose their trades. But she called the queries “unnecessary” in responses to the reports, citing “taxpayer expense and administrative burden.” Belinski requested the House panel dismiss the referral, noting that the congressmen have already paid fines. 

Those fines were $600 for Fallon and $800 for Rutherford, according to the ethics office. It said Rutherford’s penalty was calculated incorrectly though, while Fallon didn’t provide enough information to assess the accuracy of his fine.

The panel didn’t release a report on Jacobs, but it did publish his response to the inquiry, which provided some information about the allegations. They involve government securities, as well as stocks acquired through a corporate spinoff and merger.

“Congressman Jacobs takes compliance and transparency seriously, and as such, proactively filed the periodic transaction reports in question and worked with the House ethics committee to pay the applicable fine,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “The congressman looks forward to the committee meeting in person in order to complete their review and resolve this matter.”

In April, the committee disclosed that it had launched separate investigations into Fallon and Rutherford, who is a member of the ethics panel. At that time, the committee did not provide any details about the investigations, saying only that it would announce a course of action by May 31. Last week the panel disclosed that it was investigating Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) for allegedly engaging in an improper relationship with a staffer and promoting a cryptocurrency in which he had an undisclosed interest. The committee also revealed last month that the ethics office found “substantial reason to believe” Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) spent campaign funds on personal expenses.

Details about an investigation into Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) should be released by July 29.


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Continuing Irresolutions

Updates on Checks & Imbalances’ previous reporting

“Outgoing Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) revealed Friday he sold upward of $250,000 of the Let’s Go Brandon meme cryptocurrency on Dec. 31, 2021, the day it saw its market value peak,” reported the Washington Examiner. “Less than a month later, the meme coin had lost 100% of its value.”

The House Committee on Ethics already announced it was investigating Cawthorn for allegedly promoting a cryptocurrency in which he had an undisclosed interest (as well as engaging in an improper relationship with a staffer).

*****

“In March, a jury swiftly and decisively convicted then-U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) of two counts of lying to federal agents and one count of trying to conceal the source of $30,000 in dirty campaign funds,” reports the Omaha World-Herald. “Now, the former Nebraska congressman wants those convictions overturned.”

Before he’d even been indicted, Fortenberry had paid $80,000 of campaign money to defense attorneys.

*****

“A year-and-a-half-long probe by the House Ethics Committee into alleged misspending of campaign and congressional money and misuse of his office by Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) isn’t likely to yield results, said an attorney for the group that filed the initial complaint against the congressman,” reports the Clarion Ledger.

Palazzo’s campaign has spent at least $61,000 on his legal fees related to the inquiry.


Top Golfer Johnson Joins Trump, Saudi-Backed Tournament—Skipping PGA Event—And Upsets Sponsor

In a move likely inspired by LIV Golf’s massive payouts backed by the Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, “former top-ranked golfer Dustin Johnson will play in the first LIV Golf event next week, the budding PGA Tour competitor announced late Tuesday night,” reports Derek Saul:

Former President Donald Trump is intimately involved with LIV Golf, as his National Doral Golf Club in Miami will host the LIV Golf’s final 2022 tournament in October. Trump posted in support of the new league on his TruthSocial platform last week, according to Golf.com, writing the PGA has “been taking advantage of the players for many years” and the “LIV can change that!”


Tracking Trump

The Waldorf Astoria Washington DC, which replaced Trump’s hotel in the Old Post Office, opened on Wednesday, according to a press release from Hilton, the brand’s parent company.

Hilton’s reservation website is accepting overnight stays, although your correspondent bailed on the booking process when prompted to enter a credit card for a $1,700/night stay (an exercise I’ll happily resume if an editor cares to provide me with a corporate credit card).

Based on its website, the hotel’s de-Trumpification appears to have been minimal so far: the Ivanka Trump Suite is now, simply, the “bi-level loft with library” while the Trump Townhouse has been rechristened the Waldorf Townhouse. For dining options, Sushi Nakazawa, the Michelin-Starred restaurant in the building’s basement is now joined by Peacock Alley, a spinoff of a restaurant in the Waldorf Astoria New York.

If you’re curious how the transition works for groups that had booked stays at the Trump International Hotel, only for it to no longer exist, here’s an email the National Shooting Sports Foundation sent on Monday regarding its annual import/export conference in August:

As some of you may have heard, the Trump International Hotel has been sold to Hilton Hotels. While the venue has changed ownership and is now called Waldorf Astoria Washington DC, the NSSF® Annual Import / Export Conference will operate at the same time and place. Early-bird pricing will be extended until June 17 to allow those who have been waiting to make reservations to get a room. Reservations already made will carry over from Trump to Waldorf Astoria.

  • “Trump just appealed the dismissal of his federal case against NYAG Tish James for ‘illegally’ investigating him.” (Twitter/Journalist Liz Dye)
  • “American Oversight Sues National Archives for Communications And Documents Related To Trump Records Retrieved From Mar-a-Lago” (American Oversight)

Editor’s Picks

  • “James Biden — presidential brother, family helper, political wild card” (The Washington Post)
  • “Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker failed for months to report millions in earnings” (Insider)
  • “These 25 rainbow-flag waving companies donated $13 million to anti-gay politicians since 2021” (Popular Information)
  • “Super PACs spend record $1 million in Wyo’s U.S. House race” (The Wyoming Tribune Eagle)
  • “Ethical questions cloud Zinke’s SEAL PAC” (Roll Call)
  • “Owner of besieged Ukrainian steel plant adds PR help, Ferox signs Qatar” (Politico)
  • “Former Congressional Candidate Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud and Falsification of Records” (Department of Justice)
  • “Ted Cruz Complains of ‘Elites’ Using Bodyguards. He’s One of Them.” (The Daily Beast)
  • “Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) asked the FEC to issue an advisory opinion on using campaign funds to pay for childcare when he travels for campaign events (not necessarily his own) or at the request of foreign governments/entities in his capacity as a congressman” (Twitter/Taylor Giorno of OpenSecrets)
  • “Billionaire Ken Griffin has now contributed $50 million to Richard Irvin’s campaign for governor” (The Chicago Tribune)
  • “Big-spending billionaires are upending politics. The Los Angeles mayor’s race is the latest test.” (Politico)
  • “In reversal, EPA deems Pruitt’s phone booth ‘a violation’” (E&E News)
  • “Where did Hill offices eat last quarter? We crunched the numbers.” (Politico)

In Closing

Please please tell me now

Is there something I should know

– Duran Duran, “Is There Something I Should Know?”