Democrats, ethics, and “no more business as usual”: Just a bunch of BS

The Majority Accountability Project calls House Democrats on their do as I say, not as I do approach to ethics:

Despite last week’s media blitz promoting tougher ethics enforcement, a group of freshmen Congressmen failed their first practical test Tuesday night, when they refused to reprimand one of their colleagues for an apparent ethics violation.

In fact, those freshmen wouldn’t even allow a debate to occur on the House floor, killing a privileged resolution before it could be considered by the full House.

On May 16, Democrat lawmakers held a news conference in Washington, DC, where more than two dozen freshmen announced a push for stronger ethics enforcement. The members followed up that event with local media, garnering widespread attention for vowing to reform Congress.

“Members of Congress must know that if they break the rules” Ohio’s Zack Space told C-SPAN, “they will be caught and punished.”

But when Space was given the chance to punish one of his own, Pennsylvania Democrat Jack Murtha, he refused. Murtha contributed $2,000 to Space’s campaign last fall.

Murtha was accused in a privileged resolution sponsored by U.S. Representative Mike Rogers, R-MI, of violating House ethics rules. According to Rogers, Murtha threatened him when Rogers opposed a $23 million Congressional earmark to fund a controversial project in Murtha’s district.

“I hope you don’t have any earmarks in the appropriations bills” Murtha is reported to have said, “because they are gone and you will not get any earmarks now and forever.” Murtha has not denied the exchange.

The House Code of Official Conduct states that a Member “may not condition the inclusion of language to provide funding for a congressional earmark…on any vote cast by another Member.”


Among those refusing to reprimand Murtha were the 23 Democrats who last week vowed tougher ethics enforcement.

Dana Milbank recaps what happened yesterday when the House took up the vote on whether or not to reprimand Murtha:

Rogers’s moment arrived at 5 p.m. yesterday, when Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) moved to table the anti-Murtha resolution the moment the clerk finished reading it. Republicans erupted in jeers and shouts of “Debate!” Murtha, in his usual seat in the back corner of the chamber, enjoyed a chuckle and accepted handshakes from well-wishers as they left the chamber.

To nobody’s surprise, the House voted to table Rogers’s resolution, 219 to 189. Only two Democrats dared to jeopardize their earmarks by voting against Murtha: Jim Cooper of Tennessee and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon. Only one Republican took Murtha’s side in the dispute — Tim Murphy, whose Pennsylvania district is uncomfortably near Murtha’s.

“It’s unfortunately what I expected,” the vanquished Rogers said in the Speaker’s Lobby after the vote. “It’s no wonder Americans hold us in such low regard.”

Sounds like those ‘ethical’ Democrats are a bit selective not only on what party gets punished but are also choosy about what offenses are worth punishing, if this report from The Politico is any indication.

That is not to say that Republicans should not be investigated and punished if they’re found to have engaged in wrongdoing, but, like, I got the impression before the elections last year that Democrats would, um, lead by example should they take the majority …

In related news regarding broken Democrat promises/hypocrisy, it doesn’t sound like House Appropriations Chair David Obey (D-WI) got the memo about earmark transparency:

House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) said Tuesday he would not include earmarks in appropriations bills until they reach conference, angering some of his Republican counterparts and prompting accusations that Democrats were going against their pledge to reform and bring transparency to the earmarking process.

Obey said because of the delay of the deadline for earmark requests Appropriations ranking member Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) had sought, along with the crush of business the committee has dealt with since the beginning of the year, the spending panel has not had time to fully vet each earmark.

“We’ve been a little busy, first off, dealing with last year’s mess” and with the war, Obey said.

Obey said by waiting until conference reports, he will have more time to make sure abusive, embarrassing earmarks do not make the final cut.

“It’s my job to protect the committee” he said.

Any such earmarks dropped into the conference report will comply with House disclosure rules, Obey promised.

“If we choose to insert earmarks in conference, it will be under the rules that require every one to be inserted by name” he said.

But Republicans complain that Obey’s decision effectively bars Members from attempting to strike individual earmarks on the House floor, and they fear Democrats could use the threat of losing earmarks as a club over Republicans.

A Republican source familiar with the House and Senate earmark process sent along the following:

Following the failure of the House yesterday to condemn Rep. John Murtha for trading earmarks for votes, House Democrat appropriations committee chairman David Obey announced that he would only add House earmarks in conference, thus preventing Congress from having a full and open debate about earmarks on each spending bill. Because the Senate usually takes up appropriations bills only after the House has already passed them, Obey’s move also prevents Senators from having full knowledge of the size and scope of earmarks during Senate consideration of appropriations bills.

Obey’s move may also violate both House Senate rules against the insertion of new matter into conference reports. Paragraph 9 of Rule XXII of the Rules of the House of Representatives states, “Moreover, a conference report may not include matter not committed to the conference committee by either House[.]” Paragraph 2 of Rule XXVIII of the Standing Rules of the Senate states, “Conferees shall not insert in their report matter not committed to them by either House, nor shall they strike from the bill matter agreed to by both Houses.

Obey’s attempt to keep earmarks in the dark where the public can’t see them is part of a series of maneuvers by Democrat leaders in Congress to avoid fulfillment of their 2006 campaign promises on ethics and earmarks. Not only have Democrats in both chambers refused to either enact or enforce their own rules, they have now put themselves in the position of violating long-standing rules for the sole purpose of hiding spending information from the public.

Now that’s a shock, eh?

Powerline’s Paul Mirengoff reminds us not to forget about WV Democrat Alan Mollohan when talking about earmarks:

Although Jack Murtha currently occupies the center stage when it comes to earmarks and, more generally, the culture of corruption in Congress, we should not forget about Alan Mollohan, a West Virginia Democrat. Mollohan, who until recently was the top Democrat on the House Ethics Committee, has been under investigation for steering millions of dollars into his district, much of which found its way into the hands of his friends and supporters while his own net worth sky-rocketed.

One would hope that, as a side-effect, the money might at lesat benefit Mollohan’s district, however slightly. But even that does not appear always to be the case. According to Roll Call, the town of Davis, West Virginia is trying to undo their Congressman’s “largesse” by taking back land a local nonprofit bought with federal money provided by one of Mollohan’s earmarks. The town wants to condemn 6 acres of the portion of land that the non-profit bought in 2002 for $7 million, money that came from earmarks Mollohan attached to the budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It argues that the land in question is perilously close to the reservoir that supplies the local drinking water, so that construction within the area could foul the water. Ironically, the project for which Mollohan earmarked funds is supposed to be studying “watershed science” and conservation. Mollohan has asked the U.S. Department of Commerce, which oversees NOAA, to intervene to prevent the comdemnation.

This isn’t the only way in which Mollohan’s earmarks may be hurting his constituents, even as they appear to be enriching him. It seems that the federal government has bought up so much property with Mollohan earmarks that the county’s property tax base is shrinking drastically. The mayor of Davis told Roll Call that “probably 60 percent of the county [produces] either no taxes or very little taxes” because it is either held by federal agencies or by federally funded nonprofit groups.

Last but not least, let’s take a look at a CNN (yes, believe it or not – CNN!) report on how Congressional Democrats are taking ‘free’ trips on the taxpayer’s dime:

I sure hope these guys are heavily invested in carbon credits. I mean, think about all that jet fuel!

Note at the end how Speaker Pelosi’s office responded to CNN’s inquiry about all the junkets. La Pelosi is doing a great job of convincing me that she was a graduate of Pass The Buck University.

Oh yes, things sure have changed in Washington, DC, haven’t they? For the worse.

Related via the NYT: Democrats Find Ethics Overhaul Elusive in House

Well yeah – I mean, when you refuse to reprimand a member of your own party …

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