May 14, 2009

GEE, DO YOU THINK? Dems Wrong to Block Ethics Inquiry:

Last month, four respected public-interest groups – Democracy 21, Common Cause, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG – called on the House ethics committee to launch an inquiry into whether campaign contributions from the lobbying firm PMA Group, its employees and clients improperly influenced Democratic lawmakers in deciding whether to fund various projects.

PMA’s offices were raided by the FBI last year and its political action committee records seized. Since then, there has been speculation that the raid involved influential Democratic members of Congress, prompting Republicans to call for an investigation.

But the speculation goes beyond partisan sniping. Of particular interest is PMA’s relationship to Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., head of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Ind. In 2007 and 2008, the three congressmen were largely responsible for directing $137 million in earmarks to defense contractors who had hired PMA to lobby for them. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Murtha has collected $2.37 million in political donations from PMA lobbyists and its client firms over the past two decades, while Visclosky has gotten $1.36 million and Moran, $997,348.

House ethics rules prohibit doling out earmarks in exchange for political contributions, and the FBI raid of PMA has piqued public interest as to whether those rules were violated.

Yet on Tuesday, the House voted 215-182 against a Republican resolution to initiate a House ethics committee inquiry. The vote was not strictly partisan – 29 Democrats went against their leadership in favor of an investigation.

But not enough did. As the editorial suggests, they’re probably afraid of what an investigation will turn up.

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