NOVEMBER 24, 2009
The federal lawmaker who chairs the powerful committee that oversees the U.S. Department of Justice has long been under investigation by the agency, creating a dangerous conflict of interest that for years has been ignored.
For three years the Justice Department has been scrutinizing the shady finances of West Virginia Congressman Alan Mollohan while he has headed the crucial House Appropriations subcommittee that controls its $65 billion budget, according to a news report published this week. That means the influential Democrat, who has represented West Virginia’s first district in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1983, has oversight over the agency that’s probing him.
For a legislator to wield such control over the entity that is investigating his conduct—as well as contractors he’s helped as a lawmaker—may seem absurd to most, though evidently not the nation’s leaders who have allowed it to go on for years. Mollohan’s probe has focused on his highly questionable finances and nonprofits he created in his district then helped fund.
The congressman’s assets skyrocketed in value from $562,000 to at least $6.3 million during a four-year span alone. During the same period, Mollohan steered a quarter of a million dollars in federal funds (via earmarks) to charities whose leaders were investors with him. A few years ago a federal grand jury in West Virginia launched an investigation into the suspicious deals and he spent more than $157,000 in legal fees.
Mollohan’s troubles forced him to give up his seat on the House Ethics Committee, which is somewhat of a joke. However, he refuses to relinquish the important committee chairmanship and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi supports him by dismissing the ongoing probe.
"Quite frankly, I think the Justice Department is looking into every member of Congress,” Pelosi said a few years ago referring to Mollohan. “I always say to everybody, ‘You’re now going to get a free review of your family tree, past, present and future, imagined and otherwise.’ "
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