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The San Diego Union-Tribune continues its reporting on the bribery scandal that finally derailed -- and jailed -- Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham for corruption. The testimony from Cunningham that he had plenty of company for his malfeasances has led U-T reporter Dean Calbreath to dig deeper, and he has found more evidence of lobbying money ending up in the personal accounts of a lawmaker:
A week before former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham was sentenced to prison, he stressed to the court that a number of other lawmakers also helped arrange federal funding for the defense contractors who bribed him.
None of the lawmakers Cunningham mentioned by name – Reps. Katherine Harris of Florida, Virgil Goode of Virginia and John Doolittle from the Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay – has been accused of criminal wrongdoing. But each has admitted assisting either Mitchell Wade or Brent Wilkes, co-conspirators in the Cunningham case, at a time when the two businessmen were giving them tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions.
And at least one of the lawmakers, Doolittle, received a direct monetary benefit from those contributions through commissions paid to his wife, Julie.
Doolittle received $118,000 in contributions from Wilkes either through his PAC or directly to his campaign over three years. At the same time, Doolittle used the earmark process to approve $37 million in contracts for a Wilkes business that eliminated extraneous noise from electronic communications. The personal benefit accrued to Doolittle when Wilkes channeled the contributions through Doolittle's wife's marketing and fundraising consultancy, Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions. Julie Doolittle received $14,400 for handling the financial transactions between Wilkes and her husband's PAC and campaign -- meaning that, in California's community-property state, both Doolittles received personal compensation from Wilkes for his "support".
These transactions appear of a piece with similar transactions between Doolittle and the Jack Abramoff lobbying firm, Greenbriar Traurig. In fact, the U-T could only find three clients of Sierra Dominion (apart from her husband) through a search of public records: GT, the Abramoff-owned restaurant Signatures which figured closely in the lobbyist's efforts to influence politicians, and the Korea-US Exchange Council, which has ties to Tom DeLay. Apart from the money she received from Wilkes, Julie Doolittle has received over $160,000 in commissions relating to her representation of Rep. Doolittle and the management of his contributions.
I don't really care whether a politician has a D or an R after their name when this kind of nonsense occurs; all I know is that this stinks to high heaven. Perhaps the law and the ethics rules of Congress allow this kind of arrangement, but if they do, they need changing -- and damned fast. There should be no way for a politician to put money in his own pocket from contributions made to his/her PAC or political campaign, and setting up a questionable consultancy firm (Julie Doolittle went into this business two months after her husband got named to Appropriations) to channel commissions from donations to one's wife or children is nothing more than a cheap dodge. It's one thing to pay them a salary for work done, but to actually pay "commissions" on contributions is nothing more than putting up a sign that says, "Bribe Me Here".
This is the kind of petty (and not so petty) corruption that resulted in Porkbusters and the demand for a reformer as Majority Leader earlier this year. I think this clearly demonstrates why pork has such a corrosive effect on our government and the trust necessary for it to run effectively. John Boehner has a big problem on his hands, and the entire Congress as well. The American public has to speak with one voice to demand change, and demand it now.
NOTE: I'm going to anticipate a couple of arguments here. One will be that Democrats do this too, and that's probably very true. When I see it, I will post about it. Another will be that the U-T is biased and can't be trusted. That's not been my experience with the paper, but if that's the case, then I will post the explanation provided by Doolittle on the vast clientele of Sierra Dominion and how commissions on campaign and PAC contributions didn't wind up in the family bank account.
I'm a conservative and I support the GOP, but I'm an American first -- and I don't cotton to politicians who stuff money in their pockets by giving away millions of our hard-earned money to crooks with a willingness to pay for the privelege. It's too damned expensive and it makes it harder for honest politicians to serve the public, regardless of which political party is involved.Sphere It View blog reactions
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