Monday, April 10, 2006


Manna From West Virginia

While Sunday's Times article -- on House Ethics Committee ranking member Alan Mollohan (D-W. Va.) who managed to slip $250 million in federal earmarks to "five nonprofit organizations that he set up" -- doesn't exactly innoculate Republicans from their corruption woes, it's certainly a story that congressional Democrats would have preferred to not have seen:

The earmarking occurred as an abundance of local projects was added to spending bills outside the normal budget review, from $32.9 billion in 2000 to $64 billion in 2006, the Congressional Research Service said. Although it is impossible to trace individual earmarks for certain, an analysis by Citizens Against Government Waste, a Washington watchdog, found $480 million added in the House or in conference committees, most likely by Mr. Mollohan, for his district since 1995. That sum helped West Virginia rank fourth on the watchdog list — $131.58 for each of the 1.8 million West Virginians this year.

Although Mr. Mollohan's mentor, Senator Robert C. Byrd, has long blanketed the state in bacon in the form of large public works projects and federal complexes, Mr. Mollohan has directed more than half his earmarks to his five organizations of his design.

Several people involved in the appropriations process said no other lawmaker employed that strategy to the same extent.

The first and largest is the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation, which is absorbing the troubled Institute for Scientific Research. Another, the Canaan Valley Institute, works on stream restoration and wastewater treatment. The Vandalia Heritage Foundation redevelops dilapidated buildings, and the Mountain Made Foundation helps artisans market wares.

"He's basically judge, jury and executioner for all this money," said Keith Ashdown, vice president of the Taxpayers for Common Sense in Washington.

Of the empty building in Mr. Mollohan's hometown, Fairmont, Mr. Ashdown added, "This is sort of Mollohan's field of dreams, but in his case, he's building it, and it doesn't look like they're going to come."
Again, this is the ranking Democrat on the House Ethics Committee. Look for Republicans to make Mr. Mollohan the poster child of how the Democrats would "reform" ethical behavior in the House.

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