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December 1, 2006
Another Example Of Democrats Reforming Congress?

Justin Rood at TPM Muckraker asks whether Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats will have another corruption issue in caucus leadership. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) served as ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Science, State, Justice, Commerce and Related Agencies and under normal circumstances would take the chair from Frank Wolf, the current Republican chair. However, Rood points to an ugly conflict of interest that would immediately present itself if he does:

The FBI's probing Mollohan for possible violations of the law arising from his sprawling network of favors and money which connects him to good friends via questionable charities, alarmingly successful real estate ventures, and hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarked funds.

The investigation appears to be active and ongoing. We're told that the Feds continue to gather information on the guy. Yet the Democrats look poised to make Mollohan the chairman of the panel which controls the purse strings for the entire Justice Department -- including the FBI. ...

"Mollohan should definitely be recusing himself from all appropriations decisions regarding the Justice Department, including the FBI," said Melanie Sloan, director of the left-leaning D.C. watchdog, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). For Mollohan, there is the danger of even appearing to manipulate the Justice Department's budget in response to its probe. For the FBI, it creates possible charges of soft-pedaling their investigation in exchange for favorable funding, Sloan said.

Pelosi ran on the winning message that Democrats could clean up corruption in Congress better than the Republicans. Yet even before the new session of Congress begins, the Democrats have repeatedly demonstrated that reform takes a back seat to the acquisition of power. Pelosi herself has been the worst of the lot, backing porkmeister and Abscam-tainted John Murtha as Majority Leader, followed by her support for Alcee Hastings as Intelligence Committee chair despite his impeachment and removal from the federal bench for corruption.

It's not as if Mollohan flew under the radar before the election. The FBI investigation has been widely reported, and the issues appear rather serious. It hasn't received the kind of coverage that William Jefferson has, but then again, the FBI hasn't found $90,000 in cash in Mollohan's freezer. In any event, the appointment of Mollohan to any leadership position would show a distinct pattern of corruption in Democratic leadership.

If Mollohan is allowed to chair the subcommittee that handles the budget for the law-enforcement agencies that have him under investigation, that pattern will become breathtaking. Rood mentions the potential for mischief on both sides; Mollohan could act to choke off funds to the FBI to pressure them to drop the investigation, or the FBI could pressure Mollohan for budgetary favors in exchange for a lower priority on their investigation into his actions. The former seems much more likely than the latter, and the subcommittee should be concerned about the FBI's ability to accuse them of malfeasance with every unfavorable ruling they deliver to the Department of Justice.

Mostly, though, the arrangement stinks, and everyone aware of the situation will realize that. Nothing would demonstrate the emptiness of the Democratic pledges of clean government than putting the target of a criminal investigation in charge of the budget of the Department of Justice. If the Democrats do not remove Mollohan from the panel entirely, they will have made a collosal political error. If they allow him to chair the subcommittee, they will show themselves complicit in corruption, and we will have to expect more of the same for the next two years.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 1, 2006 6:03 AM

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Another Example Of Democrats Reforming Congress?Ed Morrissey Justin Rood at TPM Muckraker asks whether Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats will have another corruption issue in caucus leadership. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) served as ranking member of the House Ap... [Read More]

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