Pork Trips Landrieu?

Remember how the Democrats were going to change the “culture of corruption” in 2006? It looks like they can once again look to the beam in their own eye. Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has a brewing scandal after taking over $30,000 in contributions from a literacy-program provider within days of inserting an earmark favorable to the company. Landrieu now has opened her files in an effort to explain away the amazing coincidence:

A $2 million earmark for the D.C. schools from Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) has become an issue in her campaign for re-election after an ethics watchdog group called for federal and congressional investigations, reports The Post’s James V. Grimaldi.
As reported in The Post’s investigative series about the D.C. school system, Landrieu inserted the earmark in 2001 so school officials would buy a reading program from one of her major campaign contributors. School officials, who had other reading programs in mind, were initially resistant. …
The $2 million earmark was guided into law by Landrieu in the fall of 2001, just after she had received more than $30,000 in campaign contributions at a fundraiser held by Best. Best told The Post that the idea for the fundraiser came in a call from Landrieu’s office after he had met with the senator about getting funding for Voyager.

According to Voyager’s founder, he proposed the fundraiser well after he had pitched the idea to Landrieu, but had not seen any action on the proposal. The DC school system didn’t want the Voyager system, but that didn’t stop Landrieu. After Best and Voyager contributed over $30,000 to her campaign on November 2nd, 2001, Landrieu inserted the earmark for Voyager’s $2 million contract on November 6th.
For those with calculators, that represents an ROI of about 6600% for Voyager, at least in terms of gross revenue. Once could also cast it as a sale cost of 1.5%. Either way, it shows what an incredible bargain Landrieu represents in the politician-leasing market.
This is the reason so many of us push hard on pork-related reform. The taxpayers got stuck with a $2 million bill for a program its recipient didn’t want, all so that a politician could get campaign funds and further entrench her incumbency. Pork corrupts, and it has to end.

Dollar Bill’s Other Schemes

Jazz Shaw at Middle Earth Journal noticed a story buried at the Washington Post regarding the biggest embarrassment in the House of Representatives, William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson. The man who commandeered a National Guard detachment to act as his personal moving company during Hurricane Katrina and who kept $90,000 in bribe money in his freezer had new allegations of corruption filed in federal court on Friday. These won’t result in new criminal charges, but they do show how Dollar Bill liked to redistribute wealth from the rich to the Jeffersons:

Federal prosecutors on Friday accused Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.) of soliciting bribes in two alleged schemes that had not been previously disclosed.
The allegations, detailed in a seven-page document filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, will not result in new charges, prosecutors said, but they plan to present them during Jefferson’s federal bribery trial as evidence of a pattern of intentional wrongdoing.
In 2002, the government alleges, Jefferson asked a lobbyist of a U.S. oil service company for $10,000 a month for a family member in exchange for Jefferson’s assisting the company in promoting business in Africa. The lobbyist turned down Jefferson’s request, the document said.
Three years later, according to the filing, Jefferson allegedly agreed to urge NASA in a letter to consider doing business with a U.S. rocket technology and rocket launch services company. In exchange, the company allegedly agreed to pay Jefferson’s family business and a relative.

This demonstrates the old-school corruption that Jefferson represents. He twists arms to get cash for himself and sinecures for his family members, and in exchange, he directs taxpayer money to those who provide for the personal comfort of himself and his family. His salary as a Congressman and his status as a representative of 600,000 people in his community doesn’t satisfy Jefferson; he treats his responsibilities and his constituents with contempt while he stuffs cash into the pockets of himself and the other Jeffersons.
Nancy Pelosi does not have her hands tied in this case. The House has the ability to expel members who act unethically, even absent a criminal conviction. It rarely happens; the only two in the last 150 years to be expelled were James Traficant in 2002 and Michael Myers in 1980, and both had to get convicted of bribery first to get the boot from their colleagues. The House (and Senate) have the power to act independently, though, in order to protect the integrity of Congress. They can hold hearings and investigations, and reach their own conclusions as to the detrimental effect of Dollar Bill remaining in office.
Neither party has proven very courageous in protecting Congress and the People from the corrupt. Denny Hastert even filed a lawsuit to keep the FBI from using material seized in Jefferson’s Capitol Hill offices while Republicans held the gavel. It seems that House leadership in both parties don’t mind working their way towards single-digit approval ratings, as long as they don’t have to take the responsibility for keeping their House in order.