- Democratic Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
- Member of the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus
- Longtime advocate of normalizing U.S. relations with Communist Cuba
- Admired the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
- The left-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has named Meeks to its annual list of “Most Corrupt” Members of Congress several times.
Gregory Meeks was born on September 25, 1953 in East Harlem, New York. He earned a BA in history and political science from Adelphi University in 1975, and a JD from Howard University Law School in 1978. He subsequently served as Assistant District Attorney in Queens County, New York (1978-82); Counsel for the New York State Investigation Commission (1982-84); and Supervising Judge at the New York State Worker’s Compensation Board (1984-92).
Meeks launched his political career in 1992, when he began a six-year stint as a Democratic Member of the New York State Assembly. In 1998 he was elected to represent New York’s 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he has been re-elected every two years since then.1 Meeks is a member of both the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).
Meeks has long been an advocate of normalizing U.S. relations with Communist Cuba. Toward that end:
- In February 1999, Meeks and five fellow CBC members—Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Julia Carson, and Earl Hilliard—traveled to Havana to meet with Fidel Castro and a number of Cuban lawmakers. The trip was organized by Pastors for Peace, whose leader, the late Rev. Lucius Walker, accompanied the delegation.2
- In June 2000, Meeks and fellow CBC members James Clyburn and Bennie Thompson visited Castro in Havana.
- In December 2006, Meeks was part of a ten-person Congressional delegation that met with Cuba’s foreign minister in Havana. Other notables in the delegation included Hilda Solis and Jim McGovern.
- In May 2013, Meeks was one of 59 House Members who signed a letter urging President Barack Obama to “support travel to Cuba by granting general licenses for ALL current categories of travel.” (Emphasis in original)
- In a May 2014 delegation led by the Center for Democracy in the Americas, Meeks and fellow Congressional Representatives Barbara Lee, Emanuel Cleaver, and Sam Farr met with Cuba’s foreign minister and other government officials in Havana.
Meeks has been similarly intent on strengthening U.S. bonds with Communist Venezuela. He was an original member of Grupo de Boston, a coterie of American and Venezuelan officials who began meeting for precisely that purpose in 2002. In 2007 Meeks dispatched one of his staffers to Venezuela “to examine U.S. policy” toward that country, “and to better understand how government policies are affecting foreign investment in the energy sector.” When Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died in March 2013, Meeks attended his funeral as an official representative of the U.S. government. Noting that “Venezuela is clearly a country … in mourning” for a president who “was democratically elected three times,” the congressman lauded Chavez as a leader who “wanted to help the poor.” “Before Chavez was president,” Meeks added, “poor people had no hope. Chavez gave them hope and [sic] that someone was on their side.”
The left-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has named Meeks to its annual list of “Most Corrupt” Members of Congress several times in recent years. Among Meeks’s transgressions are the following:
* “Sweetheart Deal” on a Home Purchase: In 2006, Meeks bought a two-story house in Queens, New York, at a price that was far below market value. The home was built on land owned by real-estate developer Richard Dennis, and was designed by architect Robert Gaskin—both major campaign donors to Meeks. On a number of occasions, Meeks has used his influence to secure federal funding for Gaskin’s projects. (For additional details, click here.)
* Questionable and Illegally Obtained Loans: In January 2007, Meeks obtained a $40,000 check from Queens businessman Edul Ahmad—without any discussion of repayment schedules, interest rates, or collateral requirements. In violation of federal law, Meeks failed to report this money—just as he failed to report a $15,000 loan he took from the Congressional Federal Credit Union in 2008—on his Financial Disclosure Statement. Clearly viewing the $40,000 from Ahmad as a gift, Meeks made no payments on that money until June 2010, shortly after the FBI had questioned Ahmad about it. To raise the funds required for repaying it, Meeks hastily took out a $59,650 home-equity loan from an investment firm owned by Dennis Mehiel, a longtime donor to Meeks and other Democrats. In so doing, Meeks again violated federal law by failing to first obtain permission from the federal Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. (For additional details, click here.)
* Discounted Office Rent: From 2002-04, Queens immigration lawyer Albert Baldeo rented out office space in his building to Rep. Meeks at a steeply discounted price ($1,450 per month)—nearly $800 below market value.
* Shady Relationships with Nonprofit Groups: According to CREW: “Meeks and some of his closest political allies in New York … are the subject of a federal probe into their dealings with several nonprofit groups.” One of those dealings occurred in 2005, when the New Direction Local Development Corporation —a nonprofit co-founded in 2001 by Meeks and New York State Senator Malcolm Smith—began collecting money on behalf of people victimized by Hurricane Katrina. Of the $30,000+ raised by the group, only $1,392 ever found its way to Katrina victims. All other funds were unaccounted for. (For additional details, click here.)
* Lavish Lifestyle: In 2007-08, Meeks came under fire for leasing a $998-a-month Lexus with taxpayer dollars. From 2000-08, Meeks took 45 trips to various locations around the world, at an aggregate cost of $172,540.
* Ties to a Corrupt Financier: As a member of the Congressional Caribbean Caucus, Meeks took at least six trips to luxurious Caribbean resorts between 2003-07. These excursions were paid for by the Inter-American Economic Council, a nonprofit heavily backed by banker R. Allen Stanford, a major funder of Meeks’s political campaigns. In 2006, Meeks—at Mr. Stanford’s request—traveled to Venezuela to personally ask President Chavez to launch a criminal investigation of Gonzalo Tirado, one of Stanford’s business associates who had recently filed a lawsuit and raised questions about whether Stanford was involved in fraud. In 2007, Tirado was indicted in Venezuela. Meeks, for his part, declined to answer questions about his 2006 trip to Venezuela, his relationship with Stanford, and whether he had played a role in the case against Tirado. Ultimately, in 2009 Stanford was indicted for running a Ponzi scheme and was sentenced to 110 years in prison. (For additional details, click here.)
* Using Campaign Funds for Personal Benefit: In February 2008, Meeks’s congressional campaign paid a $63,000 fine for having violated campaign-finance laws in 2004. One violation was Meeks’s use of more than $6,000 in campaign cash to hire a personal trainer. Meeks’s staff justified this expenditure by explaining that physical exercise helped the congressman relieve some of the stress associated with his “official duties.” In 2012-14, Meeks used campaign funds to purchase a total of $46,000 worth of Super Bowl tickets.
To view CREW’s 2013 report on Meeks’s wide-ranging corruption, click here.
In 2013 Meeks joined Indiana Rep. Andre Carson and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison in attending a dinner hosted by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, where Nation Of Islam (NOI) leader Louis Farrakhan was also on hand.
For information on Meeks’s voting record on a variety of key issues, click here.
For additional information on Meeks, click here.
2 In February 2000, Meeks staffer Faith Blackburne spent six days in Havana for the purpose of “improving U.S./Cuba relations.” The cost of Blackburne’s trip—$1,778.47—was covered by the Christopher Reynolds Foundation.