Monday, March 30, 2009

Who Really Runs Congress

Yesterday, I posted on the role lobbyists play in the California state legislature. Today, in a disconcerting bit of synchronicity, the NY Times published an article on the looming legal troubles of lobbyist Paul Magliocchetti (described as a "protege" of Democratic Congressman John P. Murtha). The article suggests that Mr. Magliocchetti just might be another from the Jack Abramoff line of corrupting lobbyists.

...many on Capitol Hill, recalling the scandal that mushroomed around the lobbyist Jack Abramoff, are wondering who else will be ensnared in the investigation as prosecutors pore over the financial records and computer files of one of K Street’s most influential lobbyists, known both for the billions of dollars in earmarks he obtained for his clients and for his open hand toward those he sought to influence.

Former PMA staff members familiar with the inquiry say prosecutors’ initial questions have focused on the possibility that Mr. Magliocchetti used straw campaign contributors — a Florida sommelier and a golf club executive, for example, appear to have given large sums in coordination with PMA — as a front to funnel illegal donations to friendly lawmakers, a felony that could carry a minimum sentence of five years.

More alarming to lawmakers and aides, however, is that prosecutors may turn their attention to the dinners at the Alpine and Capital Grille or other gifts they might have accepted from Mr. Magliocchetti — potential violations of longstanding Congressional ethics rules that could lead to more serious bribery charges if linked to official acts.

Mr. Magliocchetti developed his own niche in the lobbying world, one he prepared for while working as a Navy budget analyst for a Congressional subcommittee.

Mr. Magliocchetti helped pioneer the lucrative specialty of helping contractors lobby for military earmarks, the several billion dollars in pet spending items that members of the panel insert in annual spending bills, often with little oversight.

Earmarks: those nasty little add-ons to bills that never go through the regular budgetary process before the floor vote. Most congress critters aren't even aware of their existence as they vote, and often with the military earmarks even the Pentagon is surprised by the largess, some of which they neither need nor desire.

Another Abramoff? It's hard to tell at this point of the investigation, but one thing is clear. This scandal might involve Democrats as much as the Abramoff scandal involved Republicans. And to that I say good! Political stripe doesn't matter when this kind of corruption is involved.

At some point those who are elected to serve in Congress have got to get the message that their job doesn't involve expensive dinners and gifts from wealthy businessmen for which they pay in the coin of the taxpayer dollar. If it takes a scandal and some convictions to drive that message home, then so be it.

Maybe then we can remove earmarks from the congressional lexicon and the legislative process.

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Blogger Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

Who Really Runs Congress?

They usta say about buying a boat: If you gotta ask (how much?), you can't afford it.

Same here: If you gotta ask, you probably don't wanna know...

10:32 AM  

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