Butterfield shirks off Woolard’s accusations of ethical wrongdoing | Eastern North Carolina Now

    U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-NC, of Wilson, did not pay any lip service to his Republican opponent, Ashley Woolard's, Aug. 31 demand for his resignation in light of what he perceives to be ethical misconduct, during his speech yesterday morning before the Beaufort County Democratic Party Executive Committee at the Beaufort County Courthouse.

    About a dozen Woolard supporters held a protest during his visit, across the street from the courthouse, which didn't seem to faze Butterfield a bit.

    "It's good to see that the opposition is organized this morning and that they're outside. This is a democracy and I don't dislike that in any respect. They have every right to be outside and to express themselves as they see fit," said Butterfield, before quickly transitioning into a speech on the dangers of letting Republicans regain control of government in the November mid-term elections.

    "I do want you to know that you are very much amongst friends," assured Beaufort County Democratic Party President Alice Mills Sadler, who said she personally invited Butterfield at the state executive meeting for the 1st Congressional District.

    Butterfield waited until after his speech to the Executive Committee, when he was alone with reporters, to address his opponent's accusations of ethical misconduct and the demand for his resignation.

    Woolard's first accusation pertained to Butterfield's involvement in U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel's, D-NY, ethics scandal. In 2004, before he was ever elected to U.S. Congress, Butterfield accepted a campaign contribution of $4000 from Rangel's Political Action Committee. Now, in Sept. 2010, Butterfield is one of eight members of a House Ethics Committee that will be investigating Rangel on 13 charges of tax evasion and corruption. Woolard called on Butterfield to return the $4000, calling it "ill-gotten money," or step down from the committee. When Butterfield refused, Woolard said the money had "the appearance of a bribe."

    "By any standard, receiving a donation from someone that you are investigating for a crime would itself be a crime," said Woolard in a July 28 press release.

    Butterfield explained that he would not return the money because he does not believe that it was "ill-gotten" or that it was given to him in the interest of persuasion.

    "In 2004, I was not a member of Congress when I received the money. I didn't know Charlie Rangel. I had no idea that I would ever serve on an ethics committee," said Butterfield. "His committee simply sent me a check in 2004 saying, 'Good luck, Look forward to you being our colleague,' It was not in anticipation of me serving on a committee that would decide his conduct."

    Neither will Butterfield remove himself from the committee, because he believes he has proven that Rangel's $4000 contribution will not have an undue influence on his opinion. In early 2010, Butterfield chaired the bipartisan committee that determined Rangel violated House gift rules when he accepted congressional delegation trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2007 and 2008 sponsored by the Carib News Foundation, which illegally funded the trips with money from private for-profit corporations.

    "We found against Charlie Rangle. I wrote the decision. That is my work that you read," said Butterfield. "And because of my writing he resigned from the Ways and Means Committee as the chairman."

    Ironically, Butterfield attended the same trip, sponsored by the same foundation, to the U.S. Virgin Islands along with Rangle in 2005; but that was before lawmakers were banned in 2006 from accepting travel lasting more than two days if corporations that "employ or retain a registered lobbyist" are underwriting or organizing any part of the trip.

    Woolard demanded that Butterfield resign on Aug. 31 in light of breaking news in the Wall Street Journal naming Butterfield as one of six members of Congress under investigation "for possibly misspending government funds meant to pay for overseas travel."

    "I was disappointed to learn today that Congressman Butterfield has admitted pocketing unspent cash advances from his congressional junkets and now is the subject of a federal investigation." Woolard wrote in an Aug. 31 news release. "Former First District Congressman Frank Balance was convicted and sent to federal prison for laundering taxpayer monies into his pocket and we now see GK Butterfield is just more of the same."

    In March 2010, the Wall Street Journal ran an article exposing the fact that many government employees, Butterfield included, keep their leftover per-diem travel cash, rather than returning to the Treasury.

    "I won't deny that sometimes I have a little left, but it's not much--maybe 80, 90, or 100 dollars," said Rep. G.K. Butterfield, read the article.

    Per-diem expenses, according to the article, can range from around $30 a day to $250 a day, per employee, (though, the per diem for Paris is $481) depending on the cost of living and exchange rate of the destination country. An extra $50 per day can be allotted upon request.

    Butterfield said that giving State Department employees a set allowance ahead of time is easier and more efficient than reimbursing them for specific expenses. If government shifted to a system of reimbursement, said Butterfield, it would require "staff within the agency to look at the receipts, to process it, to request the check and to send it to the employee."

    Butterfield also said that there was a tacit understanding that employees did not have to keep an accounting of travel expenses and return the unused portion of the per-diem pay to the Treasury.

    "I've talked to well over 100 members of Congress and all of them, without exception, believe that per diem is an average amount that is given to a member to cover expense, and no one has ever been told that they were required to maintain records, and if there was $5 or $10 left over that they had to return it to the Treasury," said Butterfield.

    Unlike some of his colleagues, who blatantly admitted in the Wall Street Journal article to using part of their per-diem pay on their spouses and gifts, Butterfield said that he understood that it was meant for transportation, lodging, food, tips, and incidentals, such as dry cleaning.

    "I retained no detailed accounting of how the money was spent," he said. "I just have a gut feeling. I am satisfied that most, if not all, of my per diem was used for legitimate travel purposes."

    Butterfield said he welcomed the Office of Congressional Ethics recommendation "that there be clarification of the per-diem rule."

    "Whether that should be revisited, probably, yes--it needs to be studied," said Butterfield. "I can tell you that it is going to be studied in light of this controversy."

    Already, in May 2010, Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to committee chairmen clarifying that per-diem pay was not to be used on souvenirs and that all excess funds are to be returned to the Treasury. She also set a new requirement that the extra $50 per-diem allowance be accounted for by saving receipts.

    Butterfield refuses to take heed to Woolard's Aug. 31 call for his resignation, since keeping a small portion of per-diem pay was, at the time, within normal and acceptable bounds. Butterfield also reject's Woolard's advice to admit impartiality in the Rangel investigation and step down from the Ethics Committee before Rangel's September trial; though, on this front, Butterfield agrees with Woolard that the decision should not ultimately be his own.

    "Each member of the Ethics Committee is the decision maker as to his or her fitness to sit on a case. I disagree with that," said Butterfield. "I certainly made the decision that I'm fit to sit on the case, but I think it ought to be bigger than me because I can be blind, you know, I can get it wrong."

    Butterfield suggests that the Ethics Committee discuss his impartiality and, as a body, decide his fate. Woolard, on the other hand, is in favor of having an external institution investigate the situation and has called on the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation of Butterfield's involvement in the Rangel affair.

    "If Congress will not impartially investigate themselves, I feel certain the Justice Department will," said Woolard. "Congressman Butterfield plays a dangerous game by refusing to do the right thing and step down. This is just another example of the need for a more independent ethics body to enforce the rules of Congress."
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( September 16th, 2010 @ 12:43 am )
from the Publisher: Mighty strong words from Mr. Hickman; however, the real question is: When will motivated and dedicated Democrats stand up for their elected leaders, their belief system and refute these strong words? Please Consider this a challenge to stand tall for what you believe in and use this platform, Beaufort County Now, to present your case. At BCN, we appreciate all sides of every issue, because only through discussion and interaction can we arrive at some point of persuasion.
Somebody said:
( September 15th, 2010 @ 9:43 am )
Welcome to Beaufort County Congressman Butterfield. Now return the money and resign from the House Ethics Committee! Also, pack your bags; November is coming.

The President Takes on Minority Leader Boehner and Republicans at Large State and Federal Butterfield previews Democratic talking points in Washington


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