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U.S.: Top on the list of Americans – abolish earmarks

March 1, 2010

While top on the list of Americans is to abolish “pay to play” politics and to make political bribes using taxpayer money to pay for Legislators to vote on bills illegal, the House “ethics committee” ruled that 7 Congressmen are cleared in earmarks grants. 

While newspapers are bubbing this breach of the American trust as “broken” or failed” government, I think the correct term is RICO which stands for  Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

Under the law, racketeering activity means:

Earmarks violate at least three of the above offenses namely extortion i.e. using taxpayer money that the taxpayer must pay under the threat of losing their home or a tax lien placed on all their assets; bribery i.e. using earmarked money to pay for votes; and money laundering i.e. using money obtained illegally (i.e. by extortion) and channelled through a “legitimate business” = money laundering.

Anyway you want to spin this, it is illegal.  The only ones who don’t think that this is illegal and that the politicians should not be placed in jail are the politicians themselves. 



The biggest crooks around are the ones in government.  Who exactly thought a two tiered legal system is a good idea? 

The Washington Post relates that “the House ethics committee ruled Friday that seven lawmakers who steered hundreds of millions of dollars in largely no-bid contracts to clients of a lobbying firm had not violated any rules or laws by also collecting large campaign donations from those contractors.”

The committee declared that legislator’s could solicit campaign donations from companies they are benefiting as long as the deciding factors in granting earmarks are ‘criteria independent’ of the contributions. A group of congressional investigators had contended that, in some instances the connection between donations and earmarks were clearly inappropriate. Ethics watchdog’s portions of the report that showed the private companies believed their contributions helped them win earmarks.

Those involved: Reps. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), James P. Moran,Jr. (D-Va.), Todd Tiabrt (R-Kan.), Peter J Visclosky (D-Ind.) and C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) claimed vindication. Moran, whose former top aide once worked for the lobbying firm under investigation, said “it didn’t make a difference how well we knew someone.”

John Murtha (D-Pa.), Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, who died earlier this month, was also cleared. The six reps worked for Murtha. In 2008 the seven sponsored $112M in earmarks for clients of the PMA Group
while accepting more than $350k in contributions from PMA lobbyists and its clients. The PMA Group closed their doors a year ago after an FBI raid its offices as part of a larger investigation.

The final word on this practice may come from the Justice Department. The PMA Group folded a year ago after an FBI raid on its Arlington offices, part of an investigation into whether its founder and staff directed illegal campaign contributions to lawmakers who helped clients obtain earmarks. Last spring, a federal grand jury issued subpoenas to Visclosky, a former aide and his political committees.

The ethics committee decided to clear Visclosky even though the Office of Congressional Ethics, which conducts preliminary reviews, found probable cause that Visclosky sought contributions in exchange for steering federal contracts. It recommended that the more powerful House ethics committee subpoena Visclosky and his staff to answer questions under oath about his earmarking practice. The full ethics panel opted not to subpoena Visclosky or any other records. 

The committee also closed a case involving Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) and five other lawmakers who traveled to the Caribbean, visiting resorts that were paid for by private corporations. The five were cleared but said Rangel, in being admonished, should have known about the arrangements. Calls for him to step down as chair of the Ways and Means Committee were rejected by Rangel. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said “They have said he did not knowingly violate the rules”. Rangel has other ethics related problems. One being his revised financial disclosure forms that potentially double his net worth. The revised forms show he has two checking accounts with up to $500k in each.

Earmarks have been around since the late 1700’s. Even Mary Todd Lincoln got in on abusing taxpayer largesse. A 2006 poll shows that people placed abolishing earmarks as the #1 priority.

The biggest pot of money continues to come from bills approved by the House and Senate defense appropriations subcommittees. Members of the House panel — fewer than 20 lawmakers — accounted for 13 percent of the earmarks issued by the House, according to the new report.

Many congressional leaders — including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — are former members of the appropriations committees and continue to collect large sums in earmarks.

That trio collected more than $200 million in earmarks for their congressional districts without any co-sponsors.

 Seems with earmark ethics, the more things change the more they remain the same. If we haven’t corrected this problem over the last 200 years I believe I am correct in saying the government has failed in this regard. Earmarks, however lascivious, are protected by the ‘I’ll defend you earmark if you will defend mine’, attitude in Congress. True, Congress has the power of the purse but, permitting legislator’s access to tax funds to lavish on frivolous projects under the ruse of ‘bringing home the bacon’ should not be part of the process. There are explicit rules to disburse taxpayer funds. Earmark funds, once released are seldom accounted for by any official entity. Just so many no-bid contracts that would be a violation of rules under normal spending regulations.

 Links: Washington Post; Washington Post 2


From → Taxpayer Fraud

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