March 3, 2009

MORE ON THE Murtha / Visclosky / Moran / PMA scandal:

In some ways, Visclosky’s story tells a generic tale of corruption that apply to more than a few of our elected Representatives and Senators on Capitol Hill. He sits on the most powerful committee, Appropriations, which lays out the budget for the entire federal government. His vote on budgetary matters has much more influence on spending than others, which allows Visclosky to champion or kill projects at whim — and donors know it. That makes Visclosky the same as every other member of Appropriations, including the Republicans.

The question will be whether Visclosky actively sold his vote in return for contributions or personal remuneration. The feds have seized PMA’s records, which might shed some light on the question, but no one has been charged with corruption or bribery … yet. They seemed most interested in Murtha, but the sheer volume of contributions to Visclosky and his sponsorship of tens of millions of pork dollars to PMA clients in return certainly give an impression that Visclosky was available for rent, if not for sale.

Critics of porkbusters chide us for the relatively small pickings pork-barrel politics provides. The amount of money isn’t the point; it’s the influence-peddling and corruption from earmarks that is thr corrosive danger. Capitol Hill argues that it’s better to have Congress delineate spending on projects rather than faceless bureaucrats in federal agencies, but they have procurement rules imposed on their spending, including competitive bidding and conflict-of-interest restrictions that have the weight of criminal law. Earmarks bypass all of that, and allow elected officials to set up contribution machines such as PMA. In essence, they pay for their continued incumbency with our tax dollars, and regardless of how much that costs, it’s simply not democracy and it’s simply corruption.

Indeed.