Revisit Corruption Watch: Update on "Murthaville"...cue Jimmy Buffett.
Nearly half of the members of the defense subcommittee are named in the report: John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), Peter J. Visclosky (D-Ind.), James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.), and Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.).
Here's the NY Times on PMA back in February:
[PMA] convinced 104 different House members to add separate earmarks into the [last year's] defense appropriations bill worth $300 million to PMA Group clients. These same lawmakers who looked out for the PMA Group have received $1.8 million in campaign donations from the lobbying firm since 2001, according to an analysis of new disclosure filings by Congressional Quarterly and Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group.PMA's beneficence with political contributions was lavished especially on the seven members of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee named in the leaked report (from the Washington Post):
Together, the seven legislators have personally steered more than $200 million in earmarks to clients of the PMA Group in the past two years, and received more than $6.2 million in campaign contributions from PMA and its clients in the past decade, according to an analysis by Congressional Quarterly and Taxpayers for Common Sense.Converting Public Funds into Campaign Contributions
To most people, the quid pro quo nature of exchanging campaign contributions for earmarks is unmistakable. Money laundering is defined as disguising illegally gained money as legitimate financial transactions. The only reason that converting public funds into campaign contributions doesn't qualify as money laundering is because earmarking is legal. In theory, there is no shortage of legal theories available to target government corruption: kickbacks, bribery, etc. all prohibit the use of public office or funds in exchange for private gains.
In practice, however, the law places significant roadblocks and obstacles in the way of federal prosecutors in probing public corruption. Absent a confession or a still hot, smoking gun, prosecutors generally steer well clear of the U.S. Constitution's Speech and Debate Clause (Art I, sec 6, cl 1).
For example, here's some seriously discouraging guidance from DOJ's Criminal Resource Manual to U.S. Attorneys on prosecuting corruption:
A bribery charge can be premised on a campaign contribution. But be careful. It is problematical that a gratuity charge under 201(c) can rest on a bona fide campaign contribution, unless the contribution was a ruse that masqueraded for a gift to the personal benefit of the public officer as was the case in Brewster, supra. This is because campaign contributions represent a necessary feature of the American political process, they normally inure to the benefit of a campaign committee rather than directly to the personal benefit of a public officer, and they are almost always given and received with a generalized expectation of currying favor with the candidate benefitting therefrom. For these reasons, recent Federal jurisprudence on the subject suggests substantial judicial reluctance to extend the Federal crime of gratuities under section 201(c) to bona fide campaign donations.While the DOJ investigation into PMA may yet bear some unexpected fruit, I'm not exactly holding my breath. Barring the discovery of an email or letter on congressional letterhead demanding campaign contributions in return for earmarks or something equally unlikely (like foil-wrapped bricks of $100 bills or Blagojevich-type bravado), the U.S. attorney can only hope for a jittery suspect to "turn state's evidence" on a quid pro quo transaction. Fat chance of that when you have seasoned political pros operating inside an enormous legal gray area. It's also no surprise that the law is on the side of the lawmakers.
PRACTICE TIP: Where the transaction represents a bona fide campaign contribution, prosecutors must normally be prepared to prove that it involved a quid pro quo understanding and thereby constituted a "bribe" offense actionable under section 201(b).
If the bar for prosecuting quid pro quo transactions is so high, can Congress police itself? Let's see what the House Ethics Committee might dish out:
Ethics committee investigations are not uncommon. Most result in private letters that either exonerate or reprimand a member. In some rare instances, the censure is more severe.Penalties available to the House Ethics Committee such as reprimand, censure and expulsion (only 2 members of Congress have been expelled in over a century) don't quite instill fear in corrupt politicians and staffers. With the permissive legal environment for taking financial contributions, hamstrung federal prosecutors, and toothless self-enforcement on Capitol Hill, crooked lawmakers are sure to be shaking all the way to the bank. In fact, the junior staffer who inadvertently released the report may wind up being the only government employee to lose his/her job in this case.
When it comes to government integrity, there is a clear gap between what is expected by the people and what is delivered by our government. The continued failure to close this gap will further drain the public's dwindling faith and confidence in Washington. Sphere: Related Content