So, Rep. Alan Mollohan was defeated in a Democratic primary yesterday. He was the second incumbent to lose in the... View ArticleContinue reading
The Appropriate Culture of Corruption
The New York Times reports today on what could be the next great lobbying scandal. After his house and offices... View ArticleContinue reading
Mitchell Wade’s Five Congressmen
Seth Hettena spills the beans on the names of the five lawmakers that Mitchell Wade provided information on to federal... View ArticleContinue reading
Investigating More Earmarks
Writing in Roll Call, Paul Singer notes (subscription only) that one of Rep. Alan Mollohan's earmarks -- $1 million to acquire land to expand the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Northeast West Virginia -- also happens to be in an area with which Mollohan has some familiarity:
...Mollohan owns two properties in Tucker County, near the boundaries of the refuge — one with a home and an adjacent lot, the other a lot with no building — that he lists on his financial disclosure forms as being worth a total of $550,000 to $1,100,000. With two ski resorts nearby and several housing developments along the same road, local officials say property values are skyrocketing in the area, and placing more land off-limits to development will simply increase the price of the existing lots.Continue reading
Under Investigation Watch: Do They Really Care About Earmarks?
If there was ever a test case for whether voters cared about the abusive earmarking practice than the race in WV-01 would be it. This year Rep. Alan Mollohan found himself the subject of a federal investigation into his use of earmarks to create a series of nonprofits headed by his real estate partners. Mollohan, like other West Virginians sent off to Washington, is a prolific earmarker and has created an entire technology corridor -- this technology corridor being the reason for the investigation -- in northern West Virginia through earmarks. But will voters punish Mollohan for his earmarking or do they see his perch on the Appropriations Committee as a means of attracting money and jobs to a seriously depressed state economy.Continue reading
Announcing Online Poll
Today, Sunlight is posting an online poll asking the public if Congress is doing enough to address ethics and lobbying reform in the wake of recent scandals. We've posted one serious question and another one with a touch of humor: do you think it more likely that there would be a live sighting of Elvis before the current congressional leadership showed real leadership on the need for reform? (The poll is viewable here, and bloggers are encouraged to copy the source code and post it on their own sites.)
Why the cynical question? Here's a brief guide to the issue.Continue reading
- The Washington Post and The Hill finally run stories on [sw: Dennis Hastert]'s land deal in Kendall County, Illinois. The Post story looks at Hastert's land deal along side the land deals of Reps. [sw: Ken Calvert] (R-Calif.) and [sw: Gary Miller] (R-Calif.). Both Calvert and Miller made large sums of money off of land that they helped, through the earmarking process, become more profitable. Their stories are here and here respectively.
- New tax records show that Rep. [sw: Alan Mollohan] (D-W.Va.) steered $179 million in federal earmarks to companies that contributed to charities that he is associated with. According to Bloomberg, "The money went to 21 companies and nonprofit groups that contributed $225,427 to the Robert H. Mollohan Family Charitable Foundation in 2004 -- almost half of the charity's revenue". Charities connected to politicians (or spouses of politicians) are a way for companies and interests to curry favor from a legislator out of the public eye. Numerous lawmakers have used their charities inappropriately including Senators Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) and Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). I'm sure that there are many more political charity abuses that go unnoticed.
- The Senate Indian Affairs Committee just released their final report on the Jack Abramoff tribal scandal, "Gimme Five -- Investigation of Tribal Lobbying Matters". The Arizona Republic reported this morning that the report is expected to "read more like a summer mystery novel with chapters missing than a tell-all account of former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff's corrupt influence in Washington." Since Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) refused to call members of Congress to testify before his committee those "missing chapters" will have to be filled in by the Justice Department and our courts.
- Most members of Congress do not read the bills that they vote on. Rep. [sw: John McHugh] (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee personnel subcommittee, did not know that a provision existed in a bill that he crafted that he "philosophically" opposed. Oops. Maybe we should pay attention next time. Or we could make bills available 72 hours before they are voted on (as Readthebill.org is pushing) so that maybe somebody else could have caught what John McHugh didn't.
- The federal government spent over $1.4 billion on fraudulent assistance to fake victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. One man spent 70 days at a hotel in Hawaii on taxpayer money.
- [sw: Alan Mollohan] (D-WV), who resigned his seat on the House Ethics Committee after he became the subject of a federal inquiry, released corrections to his financial disclosure forms yesterday, according to the New York Times. Mollohan "filed some two dozen corrections to his past six annual financial disclosure forms, saying his accountant had uncovered 'a relative handful of unintentional and immaterial mistakes.'" He had left out one major transaction in which in he took out a "$2.3 million 'back-to-back loan'". Mollohan stated that he did not feel that he had to report this previously because the net value was zero.
- The judge ruling in the David Safavian trial is weighing whether to toss a juror because she spoke to persons outside of the juror pool about the case. The prosecution wants her tossed, while the defense wants her to stay.
- The Defense Appropriations bill for FY 07 contains $1 billion less in earmarks than the previous year's bill did. Well, they did get rid of [sw: Duke Cunningham], so that's about what I'd expect.
- Yesterday Redstate reported that [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-CA), under fire for earmarking and connections to lobbyists, inserted a $500,000 earmark to renovate the swimming pool in Banning, California. Today, the San Bernardino Sun picks up the story along with criticism of Lewis from his fellow caucus members. Jeff Flake (R-AZ): "It's just ridiculous. Cities ought to pay for their own pools." Banning is represented by lobbyist David Turch, who has lost numerous county and municipal clients to the now-radioactive lobbying firm of Copeland Lowery Jacquez and White.
A Round-Table Discussion on Hiding Your Money in Washington:
In Washington people are always dealing in information, money, and secrets. Sometimes you need to peddle information to get a seat at the table or to help write bills for your lobbying clients. Other times you need to throw money around, ingratiate yourself with the locals and take them out to a skybox and watch Gilbert Arenas score 40 points. Throw a fund raiser for your favorite legislator (i.e.: the guy who's vote you need to switch). How else are you going to stop that bill that would help millions of people but hurt your client? Usually you tout these accomplishments and get patted on the back. But sometimes, you do something that you don't want anyone to know about and you need to hide your information, or your money, somewhere. Anywhere. Where do you hide it? Well, we gathered up a group of Washington insiders with first hand experience in hiding stuff and asked them how they would go about hiding money or information in Washington (follow the link):
After 16 months of deadlock and inaction the House Ethics Committee has launched two investigations into members of the House, according to the Washington Post. The Ethics Committee has agreed to look into the cases of Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), alleged to have taken bribes from Jack Abramoff in return for favorable action, and Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA), who is alleged to have solicited bribes in an international telecommunications deal. The panel refused to hear the case of the retiring former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), who has already been indicted in Texas on money laundering charges and has been closely tied to Jack Abramoff since the mid-90s. The gridlock on the panel actually began due to three admonishments of DeLay in 2004. After the third admonishment Speaker Dennis Hastert and DeLay purged the panel's Republicans, installing DeLay supporters who aggravated the Democrats on the panel by attempting to change the rules on how the ethics process worked. The deadlock ended when the ranking Democrat Alan Mollohan (D-WV) stepped down after he was alleged to have misstated his personal finances and used federal earmarks to enrich himself. The current ranking Democrat is Howard Berman (D-CA) and the chairman is Doc Hastings (R-WA).Continue reading