Sources familiar with the inner workings of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform say a letter from Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), in which Kucinich takes umbrage at comments made by Issa on CNN, is little more than an attempt to gain the ranking member slot when the change of power occurs in January. Issa is the presumptive committee chair.
The letter, which was sent on Nov. 11 and obtained by PJM, attempts to call Issa to task for saying the $787 billion stimulus amounted to little more than “walking around money” for Obama.
Sources close to the committee say Kucinich is simply trying to position himself as someone strong enough to stand up to Issa, who has reportedly run rings around Ed Towns (D-Brooklyn), the current committee chairman and presumptive ranking member.
According to a story in the New York Daily News, congressional sources said some Democrats and the White House are worried Towns doesn’t have what it will take to counter Issa as chairman and are seeking his ouster.
In the way of Kucinich gaining the seat are Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland).
Sources speaking on condition of anonymity say Maloney has made clear she wants either the No. 2 slot on Oversight or the No. 2 slot on Financial Services. Neither is a position she’s liable to get. The Congressional Black Caucus will resist her on Oversight, and to be the ranking member of Financial Services would require the ouster of Rep. Barney Frank — which is unlikely at best. Moreover, Cummings has let it be known he would like Towns’ job. Cummings is a power within the CBC and a leading candidate for the job if the 76-year-old Towns is shunted aside.
Enter Kucinich, who wants the job and is trying hard to show that he could restrain Issa. He is also trying to convince the Democrat leadership to take the hit with the CBC in order to put him in the job.
In the letter, Kucinich castigates Issa for using the term “walking around money”:
That term, as you may know, refers to the use by certain political campaigns of money for off-the-books, wholly unaccountable, and potentially illegal purposes. It does not begin to describe funds subject to the bimonthly scrutiny of the Government Accountability Office, which has issued no less than 10 reports on the use of stimulus funds; or the publications and websites of every Federal agency that committed stimulus funds; or the investigations and reports of the Inspectors General of those agencies; or the 50 state websites devoted to accounting for the use of stimulus funds in that state; or the various publications of the Council of State Governments; the U.S. Conference of Mayors, or the National Conference of State Legislatures.
It’s an interesting claim given that there are two possible interpretations of the phrase. Indeed, it can refer to money given to campaign workers to buy things like gas and doughnuts. As a piece by Christopher Beam on Slate.com points out:
It’s cash that’s given to help get people to the polls. The money can go toward perks like coffee and doughnuts for door knockers, gas for volunteers to chauffeur elderly voters, or pocket money for kids who distribute fliers and sample ballots on Election Day. Also known as “walking-around money” or “get-out-the-vote money,” it’s most common in poor areas of Philadelphia; Chicago; Newark, N.J.; Baltimore; Los Angeles; and other big cities. Both parties use street money, but it’s more common among Democrats, who tend to be better represented in the areas that rely on it.
Additionally, it can refer simply to pocket money used for meals or cabs and such.
Certainly, Kucinich has accepted his share of the stimulus for his district — to the tune of more than $150,000 for groups in his area.
This would include $95,920 for Onix Networking so it could buy the Google Maps API, $50,000 to allow Cleveland Public Theater to hire a marketing and communications director, and $7,124 through HUD for lefty group Environmental Health Watch to do something called neighborhood stabilization. While this is chump change compared to $787 billion, it’s still a nice piece of walking-around money in and of itself.
In his letter, Kucinich states:
While one may quarrel with the use to which the economic stimulus has been put, or even whether fiscal stimulus is an appropriate governmental response to the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, it is not possible to argue that the economic stimulus resembles “walking-around money.” There is no evidence with which I am familiar which substantiates your claim, and much which refutes it.
Therefore, I am writing to demand that you produce your evidence or retract your comment. I look forward to hearing from you.
Leaving aside the $150,000 Kucinich brought home to his district, there is evidence that the allocation of “stimulus funds” was politically motivated.
On average, Democratic districts received one-and-a-half times as many awards as Republican ones. Democratic districts also received two-and-a-half times more stimulus dollars than Republican districts ($122,127,186,509 vs. $46,139,592,268). Republican districts also received smaller awards on average. (The average dollars awarded per Republican district is $260,675,663, while the average dollars awarded per Democratic district is $471,533,539.)
Read that again — Democratic districts received one-and-a-half times as many awards as Republican districts and two-and-a-half times more money.
This would seem to be prima facie evidence of vote buying on a grand scale.
That Mr. Kucinich is playing power politics in hopes of garnering a powerful seat on a powerful committee is unsurprising given his record of political maneuvering. However, the evidence which he has demanded was easy to find with a few minutes of searching.
Perhaps Mr. Kucinch should issue the apology and retraction he demanded from Mr. Issa.