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First recorded activity by BoatBanter: Jul 2006
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Default I'm a Dem and these people

Are insane.

We need to get rid of this **** asap or the people's representatives
will continue to spend the people's money in ways that do not
represent the constituents who voted them in...

It's a ****ed up system that has to change...

Ethics panel clears 7 on earmarks

By Paul Kane and Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 27, 2010; A02

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.

In a 305-page report, the ethics committee declared that lawmakers are
free to raise campaign money from the very companies they are
benefiting so long as the deciding factors in granting those
"earmarks" are "criteria independent" of the contributions. The report
served as a blunt rejection of ethics watchdogs and a different group
of congressional investigators, who have contended that in some
instances the connection between donations and earmarks was so close
that it had to be inappropriate.

"Simply because a member sponsors an earmark for an entity that also
happens to be a campaign contributor does not, on these two facts
alone, support a claim that a member's actions are being influenced by
campaign contributions," the House Committee on Standards of Official
Conduct said in a unanimous statement.

Ethics watchdogs issued sharp denunciations, citing portions of the
report that showed that the private companies thought their donations
helped them win earmarks. The lawmakers -- Reps. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.),
Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), Todd Tiahrt
(R-Kan.), Peter J. Visclosky (D-Ind.) and C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) --
claimed vindication.

"They found no cause. They basically said we were completely
exonerated," Moran, whose former top aide once worked at the lobbying
firm under investigation, said in an interview explaining his office's
earmark process. "We screened everything. It didn't make a difference
how well we knew someone."

The late John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), who until his death earlier this
month chaired the defense appropriations subcommittee, was also
cleared. The other six lawmakers served on Murtha's panel. In fiscal
2008 alone, the seven lawmakers sponsored $112 million worth of
earmarks for clients of the PMA Group while accepting more than
$350,000 in contributions from the firm's lobbyists and its clients,
according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group.

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 released OCE's investigative work, including e-mails
suggesting that Visclosky's fundraisers were specifically targeted
toward PMA's clients seeking "earmarks." Fundraisers were held within
days and weeks of when those companies had to submit earmark requests
to the lawmaker. Company lobbyists discussed in e-mails that earmark
requesters had been asked to donate $20,000 to Visclosky, though it is
unclear who asked. "That's what all the companies working with PMA and
Visclosky have been asked to contribute," said an official at Sierra
Nevada Corp., a defense contractor, explaining the donation request.
Visclosky's office and his attorneys declined to comment.

For some, the ethics committee announcement was expected given the
OCE's recommendations last month that five of the seven lawmakers
should be cleared. Tiahrt was recommended for further review because
he declined to sit for an interview, but he was also cleared by the
full committee.

"This comes as no surprise because there was never anything to justify
a review in the first place," Tiahrt said in a statement.

The committee's action came as it also closed out a case involving
Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) and five other lawmakers who traveled
to conferences at Caribbean resorts that were underwritten by private
corporations, which is against House rules. The panel cleared the
other five but said Rangel should have known about the arrangements
made by two staffers.

Rangel rebuffed calls for him to step down as chairman of the powerful
Ways and Means Committee, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
stood behind him. "They have said he did not knowingly violate the
rules," Pelosi said.

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