Nancy Pelosi likes to brag that she's "drained the swamp" when it comes to corruption in the House, but ethics problems could come back to haunt Democrats in 2010. Democrats are currently the subject of 12 of the 16 complaints pending before the House ethics committee. Two of the lawmakers under scrutiny—Reps. Jack Murtha and Charlie Rangel—have close ties to Pelosi, who has come under criticism for not asking them to resign their committee posts. Murtha, chairman of a key defense-appropriations subcommittee, is is not formally under investigation but the ethics committee is reviewing political contributions he and other House lawmakers received from lobbying firm whose clients received millions of dollars in Defense earmarks. Rangel, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, is facing scrutiny for not fully disclosing assets. The ethics committee is also looking into ties between Rangel and a developer who leased rent-controlled apartments to the congressman, and whether Rangel improperly used his House office to raise funds for a public policy institute in his name. Rangel and Murtha deny any wrongdoing. (Another lawmaker under investigation: Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who, according to the committee, "may have offered to raise funds" for then–Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich in exchange for the president's Senate seat—a charge Jackson denies. The panel deferred its probe at the request of the Justice Department, which is conducting its own inquiry.)
Pelosi has said little about Rangel's ethics problems, or those involving other Democrats; a Pelosi spokesman, Brendan Daly, e-mails NEWSWEEK, "The speaker has said that [Rangel] should not step aside while the independent, bipartisan ethics committee is investigating."
But watchdog groups, not to mention Republicans, are calling Pelosi hypocritical since Democrats won back control of the House by, in part, trashing the GOP's ethics lapses. Republicans already plan to use the ethics issue against Democrats in 2010. Though Rangel and Murtha aren't as known as Tom DeLay, the GOP poster boy for scandal in 2006, the party aims to change that: this week the House GOP plans to introduce a resolution calling on Rangel to resign his committee post. Pelosi "promised to run the most ethical Congress in history," says Ken Spain, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, "and instead of cracking down on corruption, she promotes it." Daly responds, "Since Democrats took control of Congress, we have strengthened the ethics process."
My take is that, YES! Democrats in Congress are hypocrites. Charlie Rangel "forgets" to report almost $1,000,000.00 in income. Jack Murtha's family have become very wealthy from earmarks that he appropriated. William Jefferson has convicted of taking bribes, yet the Democratic party refused to discipline him. We have three cabinet Secretaries who "forgot" to pay income taxes, as well as one nominee who withdrew his name for the same reason. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Earmarks in Congress have more than doubled in the past two years. Under Pelosi, more than 9,000 in the last major appropriations bill. These were all inserted AFTER the bill had been past by Congress and during the period where Senate and House bills are reconciled. This is a huge problem. From the Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to exposing wasteful spending in Congress:
There were over 1,800 earmarks in the 109th Labor HHS Bill, and we wanted to know where they came from. A variety of people helped figure it out, by researching and posting in the comment section on this blog post.
A minor bill with a limited scope. If there are that many in a minor appropriations bill what else is the Democratically led Congress hiding?
UPDATE: Via BigGovernment.com:http://biggovernment.com/2009/10/06/coburn-senate-votes-to-prioritize-pork-over-national-defense/#more-13746
WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) today released the following statement after the Senate rejected Coburn amendments that would have forced Congress to shift earmark funds back toward vital operations and maintenance. By a vote of 25 to 73, the Senate rejected an amendment offered by Dr. Coburn that would have restored to the troops $165 million earmarked within the Defense appropriations bill’s maintenance and operations accounts for congressional earmarks.
“In a time of war it is unconscionable for members of Congress to divert funds from vital operations to less-than-vital parochial pork projects. I regret the Senate voted today to protect their pet projects at the expense of our troops,” Dr. Coburn said.
The Pentagon has also expressed concern over the excessive amount of earmarks Congress has requested:
“Every dollar that we are forced to spend on things which we do not need requires us to take money from things which we do need. And the people who lose in that trade-off are our troops and the taxpayers,” said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon spokesman.
The operations and maintenance (O&M) accounts ensure military readiness by providing much needed funds for training troops for combat and for maintaining tanks, airplanes, ships, and related equipment such as the purchase of spare parts. O&M accounts also fund a wide range of activities such as civilian personnel management and payments, transportation expenses, health care, and child care. In May 2009, the U.S. Navy ran out of O&M funding and had to reduce training hours for carrier air wings and at-sea time for some ships. The earmarks funded in the 2010 Defense appropriations bill raid these accounts that are essential to the protection of our troops and our nation’s defense to pay for $165 million or earmarks not requested by the military.
“The Senate is putting favorable headlines back home above our men and women fighting on the front lines. American families are prioritizing and eliminating waste in their own budgets, it is a disgrace that Congress has refused this common sense approach to spending taxpayer dollars,” said Dr. Coburn.
Coburn amendments to the bill included:
Amendment 2566 — To restore over $165 million in operations and maintenance funding to members of the Armed Forces to prepare for and conduct combat operations by prohibiting funding of earmarks from operations and maintenance accounts, defeated by a vote of 25 to 73.
Amendment 2565 — To require the National Guard and Reserve Component to submit their modernization priorities to the entire Congress, and seek input from Secretary of Defense Gates, defeated by a vote of 28 to 70.
Coburn amendments accepted:
Amendment 2563— To require all reports authorized in this bill be publicized and accessible to the public once completed.
Amendment number 2585 — To restore $100 million in operations and maintenance funding to members of the Armed Forces to prepare for and conduct combat operations by accounting for the August 2009 Congressional Budget Office economic assumptions and reducing funding for low-priority research and development earmarks.