Mississippi's Second District Congressman Bennie Thompson made national headlines when as Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee he conducted a hearing into the security breach at the White House by party crashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi.

Thompson rightfully concluded, "We're all fortunate that this diplomatic celebration did not become a night of horror."

The protection of the President of the United States, and any failure by the Department of Treasury's Secret Service, should be investigated.

But last week the Washington Post called into question another investigation by Thompson that might not cross the Homeland Security threshold, and that a former Thompson staffer alleges was in fact a shakedown for campaign contributions.

The committee had previously never addressed credit card issues - usually the domain of the House Financial Services Committee - but Thompson called a hearing on identity theft and the Post reported, "Thompson warned Visa, MasterCard and others that Congress might need to impose tighter security standards costing millions of dollars from identity theft. Behind the scenes, some of Thompson's staff members sensed a different motive - an attempt to pressure the companies into making political donations to the chairman, according to several former committee staff members."

The Post reported Thompson received $15,000 in campaign contributions from the credit card industry and their lobbyists within weeks of the hearing, and no legislative action was ever taken by Thompson or the committee.

Thompson denied the allegations and his chief-of-staff and staff director for the House Homeland Security Committee, Lanier Avant, called the accusations baseless.

Avant told the Washington newspaper Politco, "all the oversight work we do is totally separate and apart from anything we do on fundraising or the boss's own personal political agenda. That's totally not connected."

However, according to the Sunlight Foundation, Thompson often uses his position as Chairman of House Homeland Security Committee in fundraising invitations for himself, other Democrats, and his leadership political action committee Secure PAC. Listing leadership positions on fundraising invitations is not unusual and does not violate House rules or federal law.

An internal Ethics Committee document obtained by the Post noted an investigation into the allegations has been initiated.

But it doesn't stop there. This week, The New York Times reported on yet another investigation into Thompson regarding an event hosted in Tunica in 2008 for the Congressional Black Caucus.

The 14 House members who attended submitted materials to the Ethics Committee to pre-clear the event. Such activity is required after ethics reforms two years ago prohibiting corporate sponsorship for congressional junkets.

The agendas at the event were identical to the materials submitted for preclearance except, once in Tunica and away from the House Ethics Committee, the agendas all listed corporate sponsors of various events. Corporate sponsors included: Wal-Mart, Eli Lilly, Microsoft, General Dynamics, PhRMA, Edison Electric, Anheuser Busch, and gaming, transportation, and labor interests.

The Ethics Committee document obtained by the Washington Post references investigations into Thompson, Rep. Charles Rangel of New York (a target of multiple investigations), Rep. Donald Payne of New Jersey, Rep. Carolyn C. Kilpatrick of Michigan, and Delegate Donna Christensen of the U.S. Virgin Islands as "attended trip with improper sponsors that were not disclosed on pre-trip/post-travel disclosures."

Presumably, this is the Tunica trip. The document says the Ethics Investigative Subcommittee met on July 9, 2009, and "approved staff recommendations for investigative actions."

Tunica is notable in that currently there is another ethics investigation regarding inappropriate corporate sponsorship of a Congressional Black Caucus trip and several Democratic congressmen, including Thompson.

As this column wrote in March, Thompson took a 2007 Caribbean trip hosted by the Inter-American Economic Council which was largely funded by now disgraced financier Allen Stanford of the Stanford Financial Group. (On that trip, Thompson chatted with Stanford at a private reception on his yacht.)

On the 2007 Caribbean trip, the event agenda listed Thompson as speaking on "National Security: A Pre-Condition for Success" sponsored by the banking firm HSBC, and "Port & Airport Security" sponsored by Macy's.

In March, I noted it was reasonable to suggest Thompson did not know of the corporate sponsorships before he arrived and I explained that his pre-trip ethics reports were properly filed and approved.

But it is harder to believe that Thompson was unaware of corporate sponsorships at the Tunica event. More troubling is the near identical agendas filed with ethics without sponsors listed, while the materials at the event clearly noted corporate sponsorship. Why the cover-up? It would appear to be an intentional deception of the Ethics Committee by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute who officially hosted the Tunica event. The chairman of the Institute's Board of Directors is - you guessed it - Bennie Thompson.

Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms.