Were Katrina Victims Victimized Again?

A grand jury is looking at the charity of a Congressman to find out the answer

It would be unspeakable if money intended for Hurricane Katrina victims didn’t get to them.

The Post reports that a federal grand jury has subpoenaed records from the offices of Queens Congressman Gregory Meeks. The U.S. Attorney is seeking evidence of what happened to the money raised for Meeks’ tax-exempt charities, including the one set up to aid Hurricane Katrina victims. It would be tragic if any of the money collected from generous people in the New York area to help the victims was diverted or, somehow, disappeared.

Also under scrutiny are State Senate President Malcolm Smith and the Rev. Floyd Flake. They were involved in separate subpoenas. Meeks and Smith have said that the relief effort for Katrina victims was run by a group called New Direction that they founded. The federal grand jury is also reportedly investigating other non-profit groups in which Meeks and Smith were involved.

The Post also reported that a charity set up to help Hurricane Katrina victims paid out only $ 1,392 of about $31,000 it collected.

The New York Times reported that Meeks has used his campaign and political action committee funds to pay for stops at luxurious hotels in places ranging from Panama, to Monte Carlo, Las Vegas and the Virgin Islands. He claims his travels to raise money for the Democratic Party have necessitated trips far outside his modest Queens district.

Meeks has denied any wrongdoing but Meeks, as required by the rules of the House of Representatives, has filed a notice with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he has been served with a subpoena by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan.

Grand jury proceedings are cloaked in secrecy. But the people of New York can hope the authorities get to the bottom of this soon.

I spoke to Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. She called the suggestion of possible misuse of charitable funds “very troubling.” Ms. Sloan, a former federal prosecutor in Washington, said: “The question is: where did the money go? That’s going to require an explanation.”

In Corinthians are the words “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these
is charity.”

A corruption of charity would be tragic.

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