The rain is gone so I can stop building that ark I was planning on using to escape. Instead of floods and flag burning amendments we're back to good old fashioned earmarks, lobbyists, investigations, and congressmen being naughty. Let's go to the news:
- An investigative report by the New York Daily News on Sunday revealed that since 2000 Staten Island Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.) spent $53,142 of his campaign cash on personal vacations, sometimes followed by his wife and children. The family travelled to Las Vegas, Colorado, and Florida while Fossella also spent campaign cash on 18 holes of golf at Key Biscane and even went to a Jets game in Pittsburgh. Fossella asserts that "all expenses are for legitimate campaign events or fact-finding missions that are part of his duties in Congress." What kind of facts was he trying to find at a Jets-Steelers game? Which player should be honored with a congratulatory resolution? Fossella says that he made "mistakes" but that everything was legal. Ian Stirton of the Federal Election Commission thinks otherwise. Stirton said that "violaters could face penalties of thousands of dollars" and that "the Justice Department could open a criminal probe because putting campaign donations to personal use is a crime."
- Senate Democrats are planning to force a minimum wage raise by attacking the annual congressional cost of living adjustment in members salaries. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced, "we’re going to do everything to stop the Congressional pay raise being put in — the right way, the wrong way or any way." Members currently make $165,170 a year. The pay raise would increase their salary to $168,500.
- The Boston Globe reports that "four Massachussets congressmen have attended luxurious Fourth of July weekends at Cape Cod's exclusive Wequassett Inn in Chatham with representatives of various interest groups, courtesy of a little-known nonprofit group started by a longtime lobbyist." The nonprofit, Invest to Compete, was started by Washington lobbyist Jeanne Campbell of the firm Campbell-Crane. At issue are the ties between Invest to Compete an Campbell-Crane. Both share the same south-east Washington address, the same fax number, and the same email address. The July Fourth celebrations also highlight the ties between the firm and the nonprofit as clients of the firm are often in attendence, along with members of Congress, at the event paid for by the nonprofit. Lobbyist and lobbying firms are not allowed to pay for travel and lodging for members of Congress.
- Watchdog groups have not been too pleased with the performance of House Ethics Committee ranking Democrat Howard Berman (D-Calif.). Berman is accused of "codify[ing] ... a very negligent system" by "displaying a warm rapport with Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.)". Democrats may be looking for a new ranking member or Chairman for the Ethics Committee after the election. Continue reading