Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Jeff Flake: Not making friends in DC ....

... but he is making tons of friends outside the Beltway. If you thought the Pork-A-Palooza was the end of spending in DC, think again. Left over from the 110th Congress is a $400 billion omnibus spending bill that is just overflowing with pork barrel spending and earmarks. A lot of it comes from members of Congress that are paying back a lobbying firm that was recently raided by the feds. So what does this have to do with Jeff Flake? Is he one of the firm's cronies? Hell no. He's doing what he does best. He's pi$$ing in the congressional pool, and he's fresh out of chlorine:

As lawmakers prepare to consider a $410 billion spending bill carrying pet projects for clients of a lobbying firm under FBI investigation, the House will vote as early as Tuesday on whether to start an ethics investigation into the relationship between earmarks and campaign contributions.

The vote could put majority Democrats and at least a few Republicans in an uncomfortable spot. They will have to choose between authorizing the House ethics committee to investigate the most delicate of political relationships or publicly voting against such a probe.

The action comes as House Democrats are trying to pass a massive fiscal 2009 omnibus spending bill (HR 1105) that carries thousands of earmarks, including several for clients of The PMA Group, a lobbying firm that is disbanding in the wake of an FBI raid of its offices and an investigation into whether it used straw donors to circumvent campaign finance laws.

The pitcher of this political curveball is Rep.
Jeff Flake , who introduced a resolution late Monday that calls for an ethics investigation into “the relationship between earmark requests already made by members and the source and timing of past campaign contributions.” Flake’s resolution qualifies as “privileged,” meaning it has priority status for floor consideration.

Flake, an Arizona Republican who has become the scourge of congressional earmarkers, cited numerous recent news stories about PMA’s campaign contributions, its ability to secure earmarks for clients and the FBI probe into whether it complied with the law in making donations.

The resolution, which the House must dispose of by Wednesday, would instruct the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, as the ethics panel is known, to report its findings within two months.

Often when a privileged resolution involves a politically thorny issue, the majority party will move to table — or kill — the measure. The roll call vote probably will be on the motion to table Flake’s resolution rather than the measure itself.

The timing of Flake’s call for a vote could hardly be less auspicious for Democrats. A list of Democratic-sponsored earmarks in the omnibus that are targeted to clients of PMA was circulating Monday night on Capitol Hill.

Flake’s office released a compilation of eight earmarks worth $7.7 million in the bill. Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group, sent out the same list and identified the individual sponsors of the earmarks as Reps.
Peter J. Visclosky of Indiana, Tim Ryan of Ohio, John B. Larson of Connecticut, Brad Sherman and Jane Harman of California, Stephen F. Lynch of Massachusetts and Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri. Reps. Mike Doyle and Jason Altmire , both of Pennsylvania, were identified as cosponsors of one earmark.

All but one of those earmarks is in the section of the bill written by the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, which is headed by Visclosky.

With $219,000 in checks to his political committees since 2001, Visclosky is the leading recipient of campaign contributions from PMA’s political action committee and its employees, according to a
review by CQ MoneyLine.

Doyle and Ryan ranked among the top 10 House members in PMA contributions.
Larson, Altmire and Sherman were in the top 40, receiving between $15,500 in Sherman’s case and $37,850 in Larson’s case. Harman and Lynch have each received more than $10,000 in PMA contributions over the years.

Cleaver has not received any money from PMA or its employees.

Though The PMA Group is often most closely associated with Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman
John P. Murtha , D-Pa. — and has been a heavier contributor to his campaigns — Murtha’s name was not tied to any earmarks that turned up through early reviews of the omnibus, which was released Monday afternoon.

None of the companies that used PMA as a lobbying firm have been accused of any wrongdoing.

Democrats plan to have the omnibus on the floor Wednesday. They may choose to deal with Flake’s resolution Tuesday to avoid juxtaposing the two votes.

But Democratic aides said Monday night they weren’t yet sure which day would see a vote.

PMA is closing its lobbying shop at the end of March, and many of its lobbyists have already left to join or start other firms.

Flake’s resolution did not mention The PMA Group by name, but he referred to it directly in a brief floor speech.

Some may argue that the absence of a visible quid pro quo with regard to earmarks and campaign contributions absolves us from the responsibility to take the action outlined in this resolution. After all, investigations are moving ahead and we should let them take their course. That is certainly an option,” he said. “But consider the cost to the reputation of this body. Should Department of Justice investigations, indictments, and convictions be the standard for taking action to uphold the dignity of the House?”

HT to Captain Ed

Now I know a few people here in Arizona that don't like Jeff Flake. He broke his self-imposed term limit pledge, and he has ticked off his fair share of colleagues in the House, both Republican and Democrat. But one thing can't be denied: He is the most prominent anti-pork politician in the House, if not DC itself. That is his pet issue, and he works it quite well.

This call for a probe puts those listed in a pickle, and it puts the Democrats in a bind. As CQ notes:

They will have to choose between authorizing the House ethics committee to investigate the most delicate of political relationships or publicly voting against such a probe.

If they approve of the probe, they're likely to fall under scrutiny, and that could be damaging to their political reputations. Remember, these guys are ALL in the House, and they're up for reelection in 2010. Being tied to a lobbying firm raided by federal investigators gives opponents -- Republican and Democrat alike -- firepower they don't want to deal with. While some in the nation may like to elect Democrats, and will turn the other cheek on somethings, the last thing the public wants to see is kickback money tossed in a spending bill, and knowing that money was theirs to begin with.

If they vote against the probe, that's more firepower. "What were you trying to cover up? "Who were you protecting?" "How much of the public's money have you spent placating this allegedly dirty lobbying firm?" Those are questions these people don't want to face during their reelection bids. The Democrats rallied around John Murtha in 2008 to keep him from losing his pork-laden, dirty seat in the House. It worked, and he won his reelection bid against Bill Russell. But can the DCCC afford to protect all of these people? Harman hails from California, and chump change isn't exactly what's used to win there.

This is a difficult pickle these guys are in, and kudos to Jeff Flake for painting them into a corner. It'll be interesting to see how this one turns out, and if heads are going to roll. One thing is assured. Jeff Flakes "enemies" in the House will be sharpening their long knives to stop his reelection bid in 2010. They know they're going to have to end this anti-government waste crusader's career if they're ever going to be able to wheel and deal again without prying eyes watching over their shoulders.

Publius II

2 Comments:

OpenID poperatzo said...

Where was Jeff Flake for the last eight years? Funny how the Republicans are suddenly making fighting earmarks a priority, now that they're facing a filibuster-proof Dem majority.

February 25, 2009 at 3:31 PM  
Blogger Michael J. Bernard said...

I bet Rod Blago is even more confused now…..he probably doesn’t understand why HE got in so much trouble but everyone else gets away with it….

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1531053/pay_to_play_more_revelations_regarding.html?singlepage=true&cat=75

mB

March 12, 2009 at 9:13 AM  

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