June 22, 2010

So Comfortable in Corruption, They Needn't Even Dissemble

Hatched by Dafydd

The brazenness of Democrats is sometimes breathtaking:

Defense contractors who openly discussed a suspected pay-to-play scheme in e-mails released by congressional ethics investigators had ties to a powerful lobbying firm and won millions of dollars in federal earmarks after contributing to the campaign of an Indiana congressman.

Democratic Rep. Peter J. Visclosky requested a $2.5 million federal earmark for Nevada-based defense contractor Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) five days after a March 2007 fundraiser for which the company's owners and its political action committee contributed $18,800 to the congressman's campaign.

Similarly, Mr. Visclosky requested $2.5 million for defense firm 21st Century Systems -- five days after its employees ponied up $17,050 for the same fundraiser. The firm's chief executive was awarded an "honorary seat" next to Mr. Visclosky at that fundraiser.

In both cases, company executives wrote e-mails linking campaign donations to earmarks Mr. Visclosky secured or special access to the congressman, a congressional ethics board concluded.

Sometimes you look at them in wonder; sometimes you just... look.

The players in the two vignettes above were all clients of Washington lobbying firm PMA Group; and Rep. Visclosky (D-IN, 90%) sits on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, along with Rep. James P. Moran (D-VA, 85%) and formerly with Rep. John Murtha (D-Pushing up daisies) -- both of whom also evidently played for pay with PMA:

All three members of the powerful subcommittee that doles out millions of dollars annually in Pentagon appropriations received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from PMA employees and the firm's clients who wanted earmarks -- often within mere days of each other.

PMA, which earned more than $16.4 million in 2007 specializing in defense earmarks for clients, was one of the 10 top-grossing lobbying firms in Washington before it imploded. Federal agents raided it and owner Paul Magliocchetti's home in November 2008.

This squalid tale of quasi-legal bribery would be uninteresting except for one aspect: The sad fact that the participants on both sides the transaction felt so secure from investigation, castigation, or even prosecution that they made no slightest attempt to hide their crimes. Everything was seemingly done right out in the open:

  • The corporate bribers wrote e-mails carefully enumerating how much they were paying Visclosky, et al, and what earmarks they expected in return.
  • They even put the details into an official corporate document -- again without the slightest fear of trouble or sense of the enormity of their actions.
  • And Visclosky, one of the alleged bribees, didn't even try to conceal the link between money received and ears requested: In numerous instances, he put in the earmark request to the subcommittee less than a week after the fundraiser! He barely waited long enough to count the campaign cash and get it into the bank.

The Office of Congressional Ethics was created by Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) in 2008 as a board of non-congressmen citizens who investigate ethics charges; if it finds substantiation, it's empowered to refer the matter to the House Ethics Committee, the only congressional body that has actual jurisdiction over congressmen under House rules. So what happened in 2009, when the OCE did exactly that?

I bet you'll never be able to guess:

The eight-member OCE Board of Directors referred the findings on Mr. Visclosky to the House ethics committee, saying they found "probable cause" to believe he solicited or received contributions in exchange for earmarks.

The OCE, which does not have jurisdiction over events prior to March 2008, included in its report the SNC e-mails from 2007 as "evidence that PMA clients seeking earmarks from Representative Visclosky linked contributions to his campaign to specific legislative acts."

But in February, the ethics committee cleared Mr. Visclosky, Mr. Murtha, Mr. Moran and four other members of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, saying it "found no evidence" they or their staffs were "directly or indirectly engaged in seeking contributions in return for earmarks."

The only reason the investigation continues is that the OCE, piqued at being made laughingstocks by the "the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history," unanimously referred the entire mess to the FBI, which has continued the investigation... at least until Attorney General Eric Holder realizes the danger and pulls a "Black Panther" on them.

For some reason, these top Democrats all casually assumed that they would be immune to ethical rules and even federal criminal prosecution for bribery and corruption; for some reason, they believed that when push-me came to pull-you, Squeaker Pelosi would not allow her top lieutenants on Appropriations to be held accountable for their follies and foibles.

For some completely unfathomable reason, this belief in ethical invulnerability turned out to be correct, at least so far. It's a mystery!

The leftstream media is clearly uninterested in telling the story that the Democrats, far from being the paladins of virtue they consistently pretend, are far more corrupt than the Republicans they replaced... if for no other reason than the very normality of corruption in the party on the left.

To paraphrase Churchill, the Left swims in seas of corruption so dense, it crushes their very souls. Bribery and extortion is the rule, not the exception; and nobody fears consequences, worries about exposure, or so much as considers morality, no more than does a "soldier" in a Mafia family: They have mastered Chicago rules.

Even voters seem to accept Democratic corruption as so humdrum, it only becomes an issue when Republicans stand accused as well.

But this year above all others may be the one in which the American voter rediscovers not only fiscal frugality but ethical commandments. The Great Earmark Revolt, which we have chronicled in a series of posts from 2006 to this year, is one example; here are most of those posts, I believe:

  1. The Missing Earpiece
  2. Has Nancy Pelosi Changed Her Mind About Ears?
  3. The Democrats Are All Ears
  4. Earmarks? No No... Phonemarks!
  5. They're All Ears... Again
  6. The Power of the Big Idea: O'Billery Reduced to "Me Too!"
  7. Traders to the Cause - Republicans Are All Ears

America has been blessed by -- and sometimes suffered under -- moral crusades many times in the past, from the founding of the nation, through the anti-slavery movement, the temperence movement, the legal prudery movement, the civil-rights movement, and of course more religious revivalist movements than you can shake a crucifix at. Perhaps our "popular front" against overspending can find space for a moral crusade for clean government, as well.

This is the year; today is the day; now is the time to actually create -- for real, this time -- that "most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history." So far, alas, it remains yet another broken promise, like global warming and a sequel to the Incredibles.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 22, 2010, at the time of 3:09 PM

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