Thursday, July 12, 2007



With all the coverage DWT has given the King of Earmarks, uber-corrupt California Republican Jerry Lewis, I doubt any regular reader of this blog needs an explanation of what an earmark is. But the absolutely perfect example from Roll Call a few days ago was too good an archetype to pass up. It concerns a senator nearly as corrupt as Lewis: Alaska's bewildered and grasping Ted Stevens.
In 2004, two business partners of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) sold an empty lot in Anchorage to the National Archives and Records Administration for just over $3.5 million, more than doubling their year-old investment in the property. Stevens earmarked the appropriation for NARA to purchase a site...

And this wasn't the only time Stevens has intervened with the federal government on behalf of Leonard Hyde and Jonathan Rubini while he was chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee-- a time that was coincident with his extremely lucrative business relationship with these two crooks. They have made Stevens a millionaire and American taxpayers have footed the bill.
That relationship has prompted questions from watchdogs who say, at the least, it raises the potential for an appearance of a conflict of interest.

"It absolutely raises flags when you have a Member having a business relationship with someone who may benefit from the Member's official actions," even in an indirect way, said Bill Allison, a senior fellow at the Sunlight Foundation, a watchdog group that pushes for greater disclosure by lawmakers. "The way [disclosure is] being handled now is just completely inadequate," Allison added.

Allison and other watchdogs argue the lack of adequate disclosure rules in the Senate makes it extremely difficult for the public to make an informed judgment on whether Stevens, for example, is acting appropriately, and they have called for more stringent rules.

Aside from land and development deals that earned Stevens astronomical sums of money, he is also in business with these two in concert with many of the most corrupt and crooks "businessmen" in Alaska such as Bill Allen of VECO who recently pleaded guilty on conspiracy, bribery and other corruption charges stemming from the FBI's ongoing investigation into Alaska lawmakers, including Senator Stevens' chip off the old block son, Ben.

What is it with old men in unchallenged positions of power in Alaska these days? You get the idea that the people in Alaska-- or at least many of them-- have just given up on democracy itself and are content to be fleeced by the Stevens family, Don Young, the Murkowskis and the state GOP. Monday another Republican legislator-- now an ex-legislator-- Tom Anderson, was convicted on 7 counts of bribery and corruption by a federal jury in Anchorage.

Stevens is 83 and steeped in corruption as a way of life. The Justice Department is gently tip-toeing around investigating him-- remember the Bush Regime has a history of ending the careers of law enforcement officials who investigate Republican criminals-- and Stevens says "he's worried about how a corruption investigation could affect his run for re-election next year." At some point, it isn't up to law enforcement officials working for a corrupt, authoritarian and completely complicit
regime; it's up to the voters.

Their congressman, Steven's political crony, Don Young, just last month was on the floor of the House defending his earmarks, still trying to convince-- and apparently with some success-- Alaska voters that forcing the federal government to spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars for Florida developers in return for massive bribes for himself, is a good thing for Alaska. I guess if these crazed politicians think-- like Louis XIV did ("L'État, c'est moi")-- that they are the state... it would be good for Alaska.


Today Scott Lilly goes deep at the Center For American Progress. A constant DWT thesis has always been that Bush has let Congress earmark themselves into great personal wealth in return for a free hand on his toxic agenda of war-- in the Middle East and war on the middle class.
Republicans in Congress, of course, did not invent the practice of earmarking. It is an innate power granted to the Congress by the Constitution; these little fiscal set asides can be found in spending bills going back to the beginning of the republic. But no one with any recollection of the performance of Congress over the past decade can have any doubt that earmarking exploded during the period that Republicans dominated Congress and that the practice became most egregious after George W. Bush moved into the Oval office.
Annual spending bills such as the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education appropriation bill, which contained no earmarks prior to the 1995 Republican takeover of Congress, were loaded down with thousands of congressionally mandated set asides after a decade of Republican control. Bills that had historically contained some number of earmarks saw that number mushroom and the money allocated to earmarking double or even triple.
In 2005, President Bush traveled to the Illinois district of the House Speaker Dennis Hastert to sign a highway bill containing not only the infamous “bridge to nowhere” but more earmarks than the combined total of earmarks in all of the highway bills since the Highway Trust Fund was created in 1956. Not only did the president sign the bill—he used the occasion to praise one of the most outrageous earmarks in American history, a four lane stretch of highway running past along land recently purchased by the author of the earmark, Speaker Hastert. 

Even this year, the President and many of his allies in Congress are trying to have it both ways on the issue of “merit-based” spending. The president’s budget request contains hundreds of proposed set asides for particular projects or activities selected by the executive branch. Even more troubling is that “merit-based” decision making on how money is spent seems to be the last thing this administration is interested in once funds have been appropriated. Recent analysis of contracting practices during this administration indicates that the amount of money spent on non-competitive contracting has more than tripled over the past six years. In 2006, the federal government spent more than $200 billion on non-competitive contracts or more than ten times the amount that was spent on Congressional earmarks during the same year.

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