This morning’s Washington Post reports (based on an earlier Wall Street Journal article that I don’t have access to) that federal investigators are looking into the finances of Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-W.Va.), the Ranking Minority Member on the House Ethics Committee:
The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that federal prosecutors have opened an investigation of Mollohan’s personal financial disclosures. The article also raised questions about earmarks — or special provisions included in federal spending bills — that he has steered to nonprofits in West Virginia in the past five years. Mollohan, a member of both the ethics and appropriations committees, has not been accused of any wrongdoing. He acknowledged in an interview making real estate investments with the head of a nonprofit company that received federal money from earmarks Mollohan backed. But, he contended, he is fully “at risk” in the investments and received no special favors in either financing or locating the investments.
You can look up Mollohan’s financial disclosures here; the issue is the rapidity with which Mollohan’s net worth increased. The Post reports on a press release from the National Legal and Policy Center
“Mollohan’s 2000 Financial Disclosure Report listed his income-producing assets as being worth from $179,012 to $562,000 with liabilities of $170,000 to $465,000. . . . Just four years later, Mollohan’s 2004 Financial Disclosure Report showed him with assets worth $6,313,025 to $24,947,000 offset by liabilities in the $3,665,011 to $13,500,000 range. It also showed him owning an oceanfront beach house on Bald Head Island, NC which was valued at $1,000,000 to $5,000,000.”
In responding to Republican criticism of Mollohan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) unintentionally makes the case for the “broken windows” approach to Congress:
“Speaker Hastert and his Republican cohorts are responsible for the most corrupt Congress in history, and the American people are paying the price at the gas pump, at the pharmacy and with record-high deficits,” Pelosi countered. “The speaker should join me in directing the ethics committee to get to work, and not cast aspersions on the independent and distinguished ranking member.”
But the questions are ultimately related: You can’t go after the big systemic corruption if you aren’t in the least bit curious about the conduct of individual members (the same ones who take those big campaign contributions from those special interests).