More Investigations, Congressmen Aim for Less Transparency
Maybe the HBO show The Wire should have focused on congressional wheeling and dealing in Washington rather than the inner city drug trade in Baltimore. Just after I wrote a post about corruption and scandal tilting over a dozen congressional races yet another congressman, Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., finds himself the subject of an FBI investigation with a grand jury already impaneled, wiretaps monitoring cellphones, and raids on six locations in Pennsylvania and Florida. Bill Allison has already discussed some interesting tidbits of the case and Weldon’s page at Congresspedia covers the details and history of the investigation and Weldon’s connections to the Russian energy giant Itera and the Serbian brothers who previously were tight with mass murderer Slobodan Milosovic. But just today we got a taste of how Weldon has been trying to suppress discussion of this whole matter by being, um, less than transparent.
Since the Los Angeles Times initially reported on Weldon’s shady deals with these foreign business interest Weldon has repeatedly claimed that he asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate and that, ultimately, they cleared him of any wrongdoing. The Philadelphia Daily News (ht: War and Piece) reports today that this is completely false. You see the "letter of exoneration" that Weldon contiuously points to wasn’t given to him until Septemer 29th of this year! That was three weeks ago, not two years. Weldon also refuses to release the letter of supposed "exoneration" leading many to believe that he was never let off the hook. Laura Rozen reports on speculation about the letter given to her by an attorney, "what the letter likely says is the Ethics committee has been asked not to pursue the Weldon case while the Department of Justice completes its investigation." Weldon has been getting away with this little exoneration fib for about two years now. Perhaps we could make the process a bit more transparent. You know, for the voters and what not.
Meanwhile, the public’s least favorite Jerry Lewis, the House Appropriations Chairman, is working his ass off to be even less transparent in his work than Weldon. According to Congressional Quarterly and also reported by TPM Muckraker, Lewis has found a way to solve all of those investigations into Appropriations Committee for "possible improprieies in how he oversaw Congress’ spending of $900 billion annually." Fire all the investigators! Lewis let go of 60 contract fraud investigators who had been brought on to help root out the massive level of fraud and waste in the appropriations process. Lewis is already under investigation by the Justice Department in connection to the Duke Cunningham case. He probably didn’t want anybody else picking around his work. This is probably what he looked like when he saw what these investigators might be dredging up.