I've been so busy talking about House Speaker Dennis Hastert's land deals, reading and working on replies to a ton of wonderful responses from citizen journalists (I kind of like "Citizen Muckraker" better, but that's just me) to our request for help in investigating Congress (about which more soon) that I've missed the party on Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., who represents me in the House. Glenn Reynolds highlights a Washington Post piece (which ran in the Business Section, which was a little odd) about Moran's securing $37 million for a company that tried to develop magnetic technology that would make submarines less easily detected. In the end, the company tried to develop magnetic technology to make the small boats Navy SEALS use (which can be dangerous in rough seas) safer; instead, the Navy chose to buy better seats to keep the SEALS safe. Sounds almost like the company, an Alexandria, Va.-based firm called Vibration & Sound Solutions Ltd., had a solution in search of a problem. The company's president and his wife donated $17,000 to Moran.Continue reading
[sw: Ralph Regula] (R-Ohio) and [sw: Jim Moran] (D-Virg.) come from different parties and from different parts of the country but they both share a commonality -- they are appropriators. In this they share that love of controlling the purse strings of government, and with that power comes the ability to send money to their district or to their family members. The need of the earmark is not taken into consideration. The purpose of the earmark is not much considered either. In the end, we see two stories of odd ways to spend tax payer money. One for an unwanted defense technology and the other for a nonprofit headed by the appropriators wife. This is a tale of two appropriators. In the case of Ralph Regula, a congressman out of Ohio since 1972, we find appropriations that are pro-family -- pro-Regula family, of course. Regula's wife Mary heads an organization called the National First Ladies' Library, a nonprofit that serves as a "national archive devoted to educating people about the contributions of First Ladies and other notable women in history". According to Knight Ridder, Regula has aided his wife's organization by earmarking funds to it throughout the years:
Over the years, Ralph Regula's subcommittee inserted more than $2 million in special "earmarks" for the first ladies project into federal spending bills, including $800,000 to buy a mansion that once belonged to President William McKinley and his wife. In addition, the panel okayed a $2.5 million federal matching grant to help renovate a nearby bank building that his wife's group owns.
The NFLL's website lists the projects that these earmarks funded as their Accomplishments:
* Restore and historically document all the public rooms located in the family home of First Lady Ida Saxton McKinley from the parlor through the kitchen. * Restore and renovated the historic 1895 City National Bank Building, which now serves as a research library and educational center dedicated to the history of First Ladies and notable women in America.So I guess when Mary Regula says, "Unless you are determined and have a mission, you don't get much accomplished," she means that you don't get much accomplished without earmarked funds coming from your husband's seat on the Appropriations Committee. Now, I shouldn't be so harsh, the NFLL does get money from private interests. One of the sponsors of the NLFF, Timken Corp., is Ralph Regula's second biggest donor for his career. One of the unchecked ways that corporations or lobbyists can curry favor with legislators is to put money into a nonprofit or a charity that is connected to that lawmaker. The member of Congress doesn't have to report his connection to the non-profit or the charity and so these donations fly under the radar. Timken contributed $750,000 to help renovate the bank the bank building. And now Timken will receive more than $20 million in earmarks thanks to Regula. They have already benefited greatly from a law passed by the Ohio congressman.
Timken gained more than $200 million in federal payments from a law Ralph Regula sponsored that curbed "dumping" of underpriced foreign goods, according to a 2005 report by the Government Accountability Office, a congressional watchdog agency. In a news release Tuesday, Regula announced that he'd sponsored a $3 million earmark for Timken's research on high-tech bearings. Since 2002, Regula has announced more than $20 million in earmarks for Timken, which does a lot of defense contract work.Regula is rumored to be the successor to Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) if the Republicans maintain the majority after this November's midterm elections. Lewis is currently under investigation for his role in improperly earmarking funds -- an outgrowth of the Duke Cunningham investigation. If Lewis is deposed prior to the election by this investigation I don't think that Regula is going to be the "unity" candidate in the Pork Wars. Another possible candidate is the aforementioned Jim Moran, who could take the reigns of the committee if the Democrats regain control of the House. Moran recently made the following statement about how he would lead the powerful committee: "I plan to earmark the sh_t out of it." Classy. Moran later stated that he was making a joke, but the real joke is that he has been earmarking funds to a defense contractor for a technology that can't be used and that nobody wants. The Washington Post reports on "Project M", "a technology involving magnetic levitation," which has received $37 million in earmarks from congressmen including Jim Moran and Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.). Project M was believed to be able to "keep submarine machinery quieter," "keep Navy SEALs safer in their boat," and "was examined as a possible way to protect Marines from roadside bombs." The problem with Prjocet M is simple: "All the applications have one thing in common: The Pentagon hasn't wanted them." The contractor who created Project M, Vibration & Sound Solutions Ltd., operates in Moran's district and has donated $17,000 to Moran's campaign committee. Moran states that the 25 jobs the company creates are important for his district and said that "he earmarks projects if the company involved employs people in his district and the military thinks it has merit." One of those reasons turns out to be correct. The Post story explains the complications involved in eliminating these kinds of earmarks:
Once begun, promising but speculative programs like Project M are hard to kill, sustained by members of Congress who want to keep jobs in their districts, military officials who want to keep their options open and businesspeople who want to keep their companies afloat.Ultimately, with Moran or Regula in charge of such an important committee, there is no chance there could be a reduction in the outrageous earmarking industry. They may have ideological differences, they may serve different populations, but in the end, they are appropriators who have fed from trough of an Appropriations Committee run amok. Continue reading
I guess Jim Moran (D-VA) was just joking about "earmarking the s_it out of" Appropriations bills if he were to become chair of the Approps Committee:
The Congressman’s remarks were meant to be light-hearted and not a serious policy statement; he is in fact very concerned with the irresponsible spending taking place in Congress. The Congressman has a strong record of fiscal responsibility, having voted for a balanced budget, supported pay-as-you-go budget rules and opposed what he considers to be the misplaced spending priorities of the current administration. Democrats are the party of fiscal restraint and will make it a top priority if they retake the House in November.Continue reading
- The Club for Growth Blog reports that Rep. [sw: Jim Moran] (D-VA) is really excited about earmarking. “When I become chairman [of a House appropriations subcommittee], I’m going to earmark the s—t out of it,” Moran buoyantly told a crowd of 450 attending the event.” Can we please get earmarking transparency -- QUICK!
- The David Safavian trial is about to be handed to the jury to decide the former Bush administration official's fate. Did Safavian abuse his position to help Jack Abramoff? Was it a mistake for the prosecution to not send Abramoff to testify? Will Safavian's bumbling testimony lead to a guilty verdict as Ken Lay's did? I'm putting my money on the latter.
- CongressDailyAM reports that the Democratic Caucus will vote on Thursday on the Steering Committee's recommendation that [sw: William Jefferson] be stripped of his seat on the Ways and Means Committee.
- Also in CongressDailyAM, Speaker [sw: Dennis Hastert] (R-IL) plans on naming conferees to the lobbying and ethics reform conference committee. Don't expect much of the conference committee or the legislation that they create. Whatever comes out of that committee it will not be reform.
- The Washington Post's Jeff Birnbaum reports that Congress is about to make it infinitely more difficult to lobby members of Congress through email. If you wish to send an email to your representative you will now have to complete a math problem. I'm going to go with MoveOn's Eli Pariser's statement about this: "We should be living in the golden age of politics -- an age in which every member of Congress can easily have a two-way conversation with his or her most engaged constituents. Instead, we're seeing bunkerization." Exactly. And why don't we have instant, searchable Internet disclosure of all information reported in Congress? This is the 21st Century isn't it? Continue reading