A federal grand jury has subpoenaed a Democratic congressman in a corruption probe, the first concrete indication that a long-simmering Justice Department investigation of a top lobbying firm also has the potential to seriously damage congressional careers.
On Friday, Rep. Pete Visclosky, R-Ind., acknowledged the grand jury has demanded documents from his office, certain employees and his campaign committees. The probe focuses on the PMA Group, a now-defunct lobbying firm that specialized in securing federal contracts for defense firms from Visclosky, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., and others on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee that Murtha chairs.
In his hometown of Johnstown, Pa., Murtha brushed aside questions Friday about one Pennsylvania defense contractor for whom he obtained $14.7 million in the last two years in congressionally directed funds called "earmarks." The Navy suspended the contractor a month ago for alleged fraud.
Murtha grew defensive when asked about the suspension at a news conference he held at a defense trade show. "What's that got to do with me?" he asked. "What do you think, I'm supposed to oversee these companies? That's not my job. That's the Defense Department's job."
Asked whether he had a lawyer, Murtha responded, "What kind of question is that?" and then ended the brief news conference by turning around and walking out of the room, accompanied by aides.
Murtha has collected more than $2 million in campaign contributions from PMA's lobbyists and the companies the firm has represented since 1989, while Visclosky has collected more than $1 million, according to Federal Election Commission records.
The latest inquiry represents only the latest round of legal troubles for Congress involving earmarks, federal money lawmakers direct to their home states. In recent years, two former Republican congressmen have gone to prison over influence-peddling charges connected with the practice. Once-prominent Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, also in prison, once dubbed the earmarking committees "the favor factory."
PMA was founded by Paul Magliocchetti, who became a lobbyist in 1989 after leaving his Capitol Hill job as a staffer on Murtha's subcommittee. A former Visclosky chief of staff also joined PMA.
Though Murtha has long been a target of critics of so-called pay-to-play politics, Visclosky has studiously maintained a low profile. Though he hails from northwestern Indiana, an area notorious for local corruption, Visclosky has cultivated an image of being above the fray.
Even as the fallout from PMA Group has threatened to taint him, Visclosky has tried to set himself apart from other recipients of PMA's largesse, notably Murtha and Rep. Jim Moran, a Virginia Democrat, who has received nearly a million dollars in campaign donations from employees of PMA and their clients.
The obvious key here is whether or not there was quid pro quo. Seems like a whole lot of campaign contributions going on, thus creating at least the appearance of impropriety.
That said, working to address an unfunded defense requirement via the earmark process is not a crime. Some very important products have been developed in this manner, products that went on to become regular programs funded via the normal Pentagon budget.
But Murtha is a pig and I hope he goes to the big house for this.
Embattled Sen. Christopher Dodd hopes to get a boost from President Obama as he airs the first TV ad in his 2010 re-election bid.
The 30-second spot set to air statewide in Connecticut on Friday features Obama praising the Democrat for his work crafting the new credit card reform bill that the president signed into law last week. Dodd chairs the Senate Banking Committee.
"I want to give a special shout-out to Chris Dodd, who has been a relentless fighter to get this done," Obama says. The president's comments were made at a Rose Garden signing ceremony for the bill last week.
Dodd's campaign is spending more than $100,000 for a week of air time. Dodd has $1.4 million in campaign cash and is expected to maintain a fundraising advantage over his rivals.
He faces the toughest re-election fight of his five terms in the Senate. A Quinnipiac University Poll released this week showed Dodd trailing former Republican congressman Rob Simmons 45-39 percent. Dodd is one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats facing re-election next year.
What bother me more than anything is the lack of depth and meekness of the RNC. I don't want to become more like democrats and I wont a candidate whose starting point is at the center and then gives ground. I want more Lynn Cheney not Meagan McCain. More Palin, less Snow. And where in the hell are the men? Is Dick Cheney or Newt Gingrich the only conservatives that can string a coherent sentence together. Why is not Alberto Gonzales running for a seat in some district or challenging one these Dems in a red state? How about Dana Perino in the house. They are acting as the game is over for them and I for one would like to see act II. My personal favorite would be Condi Rice running for Senate against Babs Boxer in California. How do you see a debate going between those two? Trust me if Prop 8 can pass Condi can beat Babs.
CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - Would you buy a new car if the government gave you money to do it?
That's the idea behind a proposal from U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. Durbin was in Carbondale Thurday to talk about an idea called "cash for clunkers."
Durbin proposes a $3500 rebate for those who buy a vehicle that gets at least four miles per gallon more than their old cars. He's proposing a $4500 rebate for those who buy cars that get 10 more miles to the gallon.
The main idea is to jump-start the economy.
"If we're going to get this economy moving again, we've gotta get some of the most basic industries moving," Sen. Durbin said. "The car industry, the steel for the car industry, and anyone who works with the car industry, and i think this bill has a good chance of helping them."
Different voucher amounts are available for more fuel effient trucks and SUV's as well. This is just an idea at this point, but the bill is expected to be discussed in the senate in the upcoming weeks.
The proposed $11.25 billion highway improvement program for FY 2010-2015 MYP is based upon conservative estimates of federal, state and local funding, with $7.499 billion in federal funds, $3.047 billion in state funds including $1.552 billion in bonds from the Governor Pat Quinns Illinois Jobs Now! mini-capital program and $704 million in local funds. The $11.25 billion highway improvement program for FY 2010-2015 includes $8.442 billion for improvements to the state highway system and $2.808 billion available for local roads.
Governor Quinns Illinois Jobs Now! jump starts Illinois economy with a comprehensive plan to build new schools, repair our aging roads and bridges, improve mass transit, create green jobs and maximize the federal recovery money Illinois receives.
I was on Illinois Route 121 near Toledo the other day driving over to Greenup and came across a TARP funded road repair project. I should have taken a photograph of the sign proclaiming the project. It was huge and must have cost several thousand dollars alone! Nothing like a little Illinois campaign road signage reminding you of who funded the project.
As much as I hate Durbin (and I do) the idea has some merrit. The Irish did it back in the 90s and managed to get a) all of old battered 70s Fiats off the road, and b)Got most of their emerging middle class into cars quickly. Of course they weren't doing it for fuel economy reasons, but the principle is still the same. And as wasteful as this program would undoubtably be it is at least a "carrot" program - and our new Dem masters seem like like "sticks" a lot more than "carrots."
It's not a bad idea. Most fuel hogs have lost their value to well below the 3500 buck mark. The SUV's on the street are prime for this deal but it will probably help Honda and VW more than GM. It does rub me wrong that the government, that now ownes stake in our auto industry, is using tax dollars to market new cars. Is that really legal now that they own part of the company?
Posted by: 49 Pan ||
05/30/2009 21:25 Comments ||
House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) tells Dow Jones that the House ethics committee is on the verge of concluding its investigation into sundry possible violations ranging from his Punta Cana resort income to his apparent misuse of congressional letterhead.
"I am optimistic that this very soon will be wrapped up. They have a sufficient amount of staff now that this will be wrapped up much sooner than later," he told the wire service on Thursday. "I intend to soon be called as a witness."
Rangel added that the probe was stalled by the death of former Chairwoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio), who died last August, as well as efforts to hire staff.
Consumer activist Ralph Nader has made a significant charge against former Democratic National Committee chair Terry McAuliffe -- that of attempting to bribe a political foe in order to influence an election result.
Remarkably, McAuliffe, now a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor of Virginia, is not denying it.
In an upcoming book, Grand Illusion, The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny (The New Press), veteran Nader aide Theresa Amato -- who managed his 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns -- details efforts by McAuliffe, then the DNC chair, to get Nader to stop campaigning in key states. (It's part of a smart, thorough dissection of what ails the political process, which Phil Donahue hails as "the biggest swing--not a jab, but a roundhouse punch--at America's corrupt electoral system.")
The charge is that then-DNC chair McAuliffe offered Nader -- who was mounting an independent campaign that some observers thought could pose an electoral threat to the candidacy of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry -- an unspecified amount of money, presumably in the form of contribution checks from big donors allied with the Democratic party, to avoid campaigning in 19 battleground states.
Nader confirms that McAuliffe made such an offer.
"When you get a call like that, first of all it's inappropriate," the consumer activist told The Washington Post.
Nader says he immediately refused the money. "(If) you don't immediately say 'no,' it's like taffy, you get stuck with it," he explained.
That's the appropriate response to the offer of an old-fashioned political bribe -- and, make no mistake, paying a political rival to pull his punches is just that.
So what does the former DNC chair who now seeks to serve as governor of Virginia have to say for himself?
"McAuliffe isn't denying the charge," says Post writer Anita Kumar.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hands out potatoes to poor to buy presidential votes. The stakes in Iran's presidential election could scarcely be higher, but it is the lowly potato that has been grabbing attention.
The Government is handing out 400,000 tonnes of free spuds in rural towns. It says that it is merely distributing the surplus from a bumper crop, but Mr Ahmadinejad's opponents accuse it of bribing the poor. "Death to potatoes," they chant at rallies.
Mr Ahmadinejad is expected to win. He has pointedly visited and distributed largesse in every one of Iran's 28 provinces and is still the darling of the devout and rural poor. YJCMTSU
What's the poor man to do? He was caught bribing voters with Israeli oranges that turned out to be Chinese fakes. At least nobody is going to forge a potato.
A multi-volume chronology and reference guide set detailing three years of the Mexican Drug War between 2010 and 2012.
Rantburg.com and borderlandbeat.com correspondent and author Chris Covert presents his first non-fiction work detailing
the drug and gang related violence in Mexico.
Chris gives us Mexican press dispatches of drug and gang war violence
over three years, presented in a multi volume set intended to chronicle the death, violence and mayhem which has
dominated Mexico for six years.