We're getting to the point where "congressman" and "crook" will be listed as synonyms in Roget's Thesaurus. This corruption spans both chambers of Congress and crosses the aisle. However there does appear to be a common thread running through all of them -- the more seniority, and more power politicians gain, the more likely they are to feather their own nest.
Politico.com reports on the interesting case of Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski (D.-Penn.).
Though Kanjorski has denied he actively steered taxpayer cash to Cornerstone, the Navy’s Perez said the company was the only applicant for the research contract. And a 1999 e-mail exchange suggests Kanjorski and Murtha pressured the Defense Department to release funds to Cornerstone.
The department was withholding at least part of the funds, a Navy official wrote to Conrad, “and the only way it will be … released [is] if Congress gets on their back.”
Conrad forwarded the message to Kanjorski’s chief of staff, Karen Feather. She responded that Kanjorski talked to Murtha’s appropriations staffer who “said this is an annual dance and ‘guaranteed’ us that our project would not be rescinded. But he promised to call over to make sure they knew the appropriators were watching over this project carefully.”
The e-mails were provided by Conrad, who was fired months after a 2000 dispute among Cornerstone officials mediated by Rep. Kanjorski. Another employee involved in the dispute, Thomas Unger, also was fired and later filed a wrongful termination suit — for which Kanjorski and Feather reported receiving subpoenas, according to the Congressional Record. The company countersued, claiming the two men leaked proprietary information to a competing firm.
Meanwhile, the earmarked cash continued quietly flowing to Cornerstone until 2002, after the media disclosed the earmarks.
Kanjorski, who hadn’t publicized the earmarks, stopped pursuing them because the controversy made the research “politically untouchable,” he explained at the time. But he defended both the merits and ethics of the contracts, predicting the work would have put his district at the center of “the carbon age of nanotechnology for the next several hundreds of years.” And he said the House ethics committee verbally cleared his involvement in the Cornerstone earmarks.
Under the tougher ethics rules House Democrats passed this year, Kanjorski, who supported the rules, would have been required to publicly disclose his earmarks but not his connection to Cornerstone.
That’s because the new rules bar earmarks that benefit lawmakers or their spouses but are silent on extended family. And Kanjorski’s nephews and his adult daughter were the only members of his clan involved in Cornerstone.
Kanjorski needs to be tossed out on his butt. We'll see if the Democrats are willing to clean their own house. They should run someone credible against him in the primary if he isn't willing to step down -- and if he manages to win. Well, they'd be well-advised not to lift a finger to help him in the general election.