Blog — Earmarks

March 22, 2013

Weekly Roundup, March 22

By Jeremy Miller

Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ)
Rep. Don Young (R-AK)

There was a fair amount of ethics-related news this week, some serious, some comical, and some right out of a novel.

CREW released a report documenting how the National Mining Association influences Capitol Hill by spending millions of dollars on federal lobbying to, among other things, keep mining firms exempt from paying royalties on what they extract from federal lands.  Efforts are underway to amend a law dating back to 1872 to require mining firms to pay royalties, which some estimate could generate as much as $2 billion dollars each year.  As CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan stated, it’s “ironic that even in light of the current budget debacle, Congress can’t agree to scrap an 1872 law preventing the government from raising hundreds of millions — if not billions — of dollars in revenue.”

The House Ethics Committee announced the formation of investigative subcommittees to probe the actions of two lawmakers, Reps. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) and Don Young (R-AK).  The inquiry into Rep. Andrews involves his alleged use of campaign funds to pay for personal travel, misuse of official resources, and possible false statements to federal officials.  Rep. Young’s alleged misdeeds involve improper gifts, the misuse of campaign funds and false statements.  Both lawmakers have long been on CREW’s radar — we have filed complaints on both members — and both have the inglorious distinction of being named to our “Most Corrupt” report.

There was another new twist in the scandal surrounding Sen. Menendez.  On Friday, the Washington Post reported that a top law enforcement official in the Dominican Republic said a local lawyer reported being paid $5,000 by the conservative website the Daily Caller to find prostitutes who would lie and say they had been paid to have sex with the senator.  Naturally, the Daily Caller denies all.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) did some house-cleaning this week, terminating some 300 super PACs registered with the commission, which have been proliferating ever since the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United.  Stephen Colbert’s “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow” super PAC no doubt encouraged dozens, if not hundreds, of other faux super PACs in an effort to highlight the absurdity of the present campaign finance enforcement system.

Speaking of Stephen Colbert, he lent a hand in christening the Campaign Legal Center’s “Ham Rove Memorial Conference Room” by offering up videotaped remarks.  The event also saw the unveiling of a larger-than-life portrait of the popular Comedy Central host, which will hang over the mantel at the Legal Center.

Finally, an interesting tidbit from the Republican National Committee’s so-called “autopsy” report released this week caught our eye:

"TV spending is out of control. Outside groups spent approximately $1 billion on TV ads in swing states in the final six months of the 2012 campaign. Despite the extraordinary amount of money that was invested in TV by outside groups in 2012, the final results of the election barely differed from the polls six months earlier. There are lots of arguments for why this is the case, and we don't believe we lost because of third-party TV ads. However, the pendulum has swung too far when it comes to spending on TV ads."

One would hope such a conclusion would lead to a reexamination of how we spend (or rather, waste) billions of dollars in our elections, but we’re not holding our breath.

See you next week.

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The Return of Earmarks?  Here’s a Better Way

Are earmarks the answer to congressional deadlock? Apparently many lawmakers think so. Read More ›

Pork Parade: Former Members Eat from Both Sides of the Trough

CREW’s research found 5 former lawmakers, all of whom left office within the past five years, collecting lobbying fees for institutions they earmarked to while serving in Congress. Read More ›

I Didn’t Do It

We expect the "I didn't do it" phase to pass before kids reach middle school - and certainly before they reach Congress. Apparently Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) missed that lesson. Read More ›

Budget Cutting 101

CREW has been highlighting for years how big time campaign contributors frequently are protected by the politicians they prop up. This is just a particularly reprehensible example. Read More ›

Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood

Sometimes it's better to laugh than cry about what goes on in Washington. Case and point, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) "The Prince of Pork" will soon be leading an earmark-free House Appropriations Committee in the 112th Congress. Read More ›

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