NOVEMBER 13, 2009
The Senate Ethics Committee has cleared a Louisiana Democrat who steered a $2 million earmark to a company that had just donated tens of thousands of dollars to her campaign, marking the third time in the last few months that the panel dismisses a serious allegation against a member.
It took nearly two years for the bipartisan U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics to absolve Senator Mary Landrieu for giving the Texas literacy firm the generous multi million-dollar federal allocation just four days after receiving $30,000 in campaign contributions from its executives and their relatives.
The earmark paid for a controversial children’s reading program called Voyager Expanded Learning in District of Columbia public schools. Senator Landrieu supposedly got involved because the literacy program had been successful in her Louisiana jurisdiction and she just wanted to help students who were performing below standard in D.C.
A government watchdog group filed the complaint after reading a news report detailing the unscrupulous earmark and it took the ethics committee 22 months to respond. It its decision this week, the panel claims that it “carefully evaluated” the allegations, considers the matter to be “resolved” and “intends no further action.”
Senator Landrieu has long asserted that the complaint was “frivolous” and “wholly without merit.” She simply did it for the good of the children in a state located hundreds of miles from the one she has represented in Congress for more than a decade. Appalled that three out of four D.C. fourth graders could not read at the most basic national standard, she secured the funding to help them, claiming: “Here stood our nation’s capital setting the lowest of examples for the nation.”
Truly touching isn’t it? Like so many others before her, the veteran lawmaker benefitted from the ethic committee’s addiction to exonerating offenders. In the last few months alone, two other members—Chris Dodd and Kent Conrad—have been cleared in high-profile cases. Both Democrats accepted heavily discounted mortgages from a bank (Countrywide) that folded. The unethical perk, which they referred to as a courtesy similar to frequent flyer miles, saved them tens of thousands of dollars.
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