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Meeks’ ethics battle-New York Post

Last Updated: 3:38 PM, June 3, 2010

Posted: 2:58 AM, June 3, 2010

WASHINGTON — Embattled Rep. Gregory Meeks wants to muzzle the independent ethics watchdogs that Democrats unleashed after taking control of Congress.

Meeks (D-Queens), who is being probed by the feds for missing charity money and other possible wrongdoing, co-sponsored a bill that would rein in the new Office of Congressional Ethics.

Another New Yorker, Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn), also was among the 20 lawmakers who signed on to the bill that was quietly introduced last week.

All the co-sponsors are members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Neither Meeks’ nor Clarke’s offices responded to questions about the legislation.

The bill would make it harder for the office to open investigations.

It also would stop the office, which does not have power to sanction lawmakers but serves an advisory role, from publicizing its referrals to the more powerful House Ethics Committee.

The office “is currently the accuser, judge, and jury. This isn’t the case in the American justice system, and it shouldn’t be so in Congress,” said Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio), the bill’s chief sponsor.

The citizen-run ethics panel has whacked at least eight Congressional Black Caucus members, including Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Harlem).

Meeks has attracted scrutiny since a federal probe was launched over questions — first raised by The Post — about what became of money collected by a charity that he set up to help Hurricane Katrina victims.

The Post first reported that Meeks’ New Yorkers Organized to Assist Hurricane Families paid out only $1,392 of the roughly $31,000 it collected for victims of the New Orleans disaster.

Meeks has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

A federal grand jury slapped him with a subpoena in April demanding records as part the expanding corruption probe, which also targets two other Queens Democrats, state Senate President Malcolm Smith and former Rep. Floyd Flake.