Thursday, April 13, 2006

Crocodile Tears from Republicans

After receiving an e-mail from my pal in California about my thoughts on the raging scandal of some Democratic congressman from Virginia, I said, what?!?

Well, it turns out the buzz is about Rep. Alan Mollohan of West Virginia and some profitable pork he steered to his district.

Ooh, what a scandal!

But before we talk about Mollohan, let's hear from the high priest of moral rectitude, soon-to-be convicted felon, former Republican Senate Majority Leader Tom DeLay, as quoted in a Denver newspaper:

'If somebody else doesn't file an ethics charge, I will," former House Republican leader Tom DeLay said of Georgia Democrat Cynthia McKinney's altercation with a U.S. Capitol police officer.

"Had it been Tom DeLay, the ethics committee would have met the next day," he told one interviewer.

If that didn't get a hearty laugh on Capitol Hill, it should have. Thanks largely to DeLay's own problems with the panel, the ethics committee was moribund all of 2005. After the Texan was admonished three times by the committee for ethical lapses, the Republican leadership ousted the chairman and changed the rules in moves widely seen as protecting DeLay against further scrapes. Outrage forced the new rules to be withdrawn, but left the committee paralyzed.

The Wall Street Journal initially broke the story last week, subscription required; and Republican attack dogs immediately sent press releases to major media outlets and newspapers, demanding Mollihan resign as one of the ranking member of the House ethics committee; you see, "federal prosecutors [have] opened an investigation,"

Yea, this comes from the same corrupt group of charmers who sicked the IRS on some poor Texas nonprofit without basis except...well, they were progressive. CREW has compared the partisan charges to all the baseless accusations against former President Bill Clinton during the 90s.

But don't take our word for it, read three of the most damning paragraphs in the initial Wall Street article below.
A 12-term congressman, Mr. Mollohan sits on the House Appropriations Committee, a panel that disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff dubbed the "favor factory." Working with fellow West Virginian Sen. Robert Byrd, Mr. Mollohan has steered at least $178 million to nonprofit groups in his district over the past five years using "earmarks" -- special- interest provisions that are slipped into spending bills to direct money to pet projects. The money has brought more than jobs and building projects to his district. It has formed and financed a tight-knit network of nonprofit institutions in West Virginia that are run by people who contribute regularly to Mr. Mollohan's campaigns, political-action committee and a family foundation. One of these people also invests in real estate alongside Mr. Mollohan and his wife. The network of contributors also includes private companies that get contracts through these nonprofits. .


Central to the Mollohan network is a former staffer, Laura Kuhns, who heads the nonprofit Vandalia Heritage Foundation. It is a historic-preservation group that is financed almost exclusively by earmarks backed by Mr. Mollohan. It paid her $102,000 in 2004. Vandalia is coordinating construction of the new building for the Institute for Scientific Research, or ISR, and Ms. Kuhns sits on its board and those of three other nonprofits that get funds via earmarks.

She and her husband also are partners with Mr. Mollohan and his wife in five properties in Bald Head Island, N.C., valued in local real- estate records at a total of $2 million. The Mollohans recently bought a $1.45 million oceanfront home on the island, called the Peppervine House, which they rent out for $8,555 a week, next to the Kuhs' house, known as Cape Fearless. These and other investments, including a stake in a nine-story luxury condominium complex in Washington, appear to have made the Mollohans wealthy.

The Charleston Daily Mail reports that "executives, employees, board members and contractors who benefited from the five nonprofits" contributed at least $397,122 between 1997 and 2006. This comes to around $37,000 a year, hardly mega bucks.

Newspapers also reported of mammoth real estate profits by Mollahan; you see, in 2000, he "reported a portfolio of less than $500,000" but by 2004, it had grown to at least $3 million, a 12-fold increase.

You would think any scribe worth their press pass would know that real estate prices have skyrocketed during the last six years; and any person smart enough to catch the initial wave is now a whole lot richer than he or she was on January 1, 2000.

Many of Mollohan's properties are beach front; my sister bought a condominium in Topsail North Carolina three years ago for $164,000; the last unit just like hers sold for $630,000 -- around four times as much.

If she'd only purchased two additional units, voila, she, too, would have made a hefty increase in her portfolio; and all without benefit of any crooked dealings with nonprofits!

Furthermore, exactly how many folks contributed to the $397,122 pot in the first place?!? Neither of the articles mentions. I mean, was it just a few fat cat contributors or a whole bunch of modest ones?!?

A quick search of one of the nonprofits, Vandalia Heritage Foundation, shows that Laura Kuhns contributed $2,000 to Summit PAC, a Mollohan PAC; and David Durbin contributed $1,000; Michael Mills directly contributed $500.

Monihan "called the charges 'spurious' and said both the accusations and the calls for him to step down are politically motivated," an article by The Washington Post on Saturday reported.

The fact of the matter is that Mollohan was first elected to Congress in 1982; and he has won every reelection by comfortable margins. Republicans are starting to get nervous about the upcoming November ballots and are grasping at straws.

Yep, we need to investigate the rascal.

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