MARCH 31, 2009
The U.S. House has rejected—for the sixth time—a resolution to investigate the connection between campaign cash and earmark requests because a ranking Democrat is at the center of a federal probe involving a lobbying firm targeted by the proposed measure.
Arizona Republican Jeff Flake sponsored the ethics bill amid the federal investigation of a defense lobbying firm that has contributed millions of dollars to politicians in the last decade. In return, the legislators have steered billions of dollars in earmarks to the firm’s clients as well as lucrative no-bid government contracts.
Last month the FBI raided the offices of the Virginia-based firm (PMA Group), which has close ties to senior Democratic appropriators, especially Pennsylvania Representative John Murtha who chairs the powerful Defense Appropriations subcommittee. In fact, PMA was founded by one of Murtha’s aides and in 2008 alone the firm’s clients got nearly $300 million in taxpayer earmarks.
In an obvious effort to cover for Murtha, the lawmaker who has steered the most taxpayer dollars to PMA, Democrats steadfastly refuse to approve the crucial measure to reveal the firm’s ties to certain legislators. This certainly seems to contradict Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pledge to sweep aside the culture of corruption when Democrats took over Congress. It also fails to support Madam Speaker’s infamous “drain the swamp” promise to turn Congress into the most honest and open in history.
What is Madam Speaker (and her fellow Democrats) afraid of? Flake’s proposal simply seeks to force the House Ethics Committee to investigate ties between the source and timing of campaign contributions to legislators who later request earmarks for special projects associated with the donors. Simply put, it strives to uncover influence peddling between members of Congress and outside interests seeking federal funding.
Yet only 17 Democrats supported Flake’s measure earlier this month, shortly after the House approved a $410 billion spending bill which, incredibly, contained $8.8 billion for projects sought by PMA clients. Eight more Democrats supported the ethics bill this week, but it still got canned by a substantial margin (210-173). Incidentally, PMA closed shop this week.
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