Wednesday, July 31, 2002
Spreading the wealth: Roll Call is reporting that House GOP member have been dissuaded from filing an ethics complaint against a Democratic House member after Minority Leader Dick Gephardt threatened to retaliate against Republicans.
Roll Call outlines the case against Rep. Paul Kanjorski:
GOPstrategists and party officials had been contemplating for months filing ethics charges against Kanjorski, who has steered more than $9 million in federal contracts to companies owned in part or controlled by his four nephews and daughter.
Two of the companies involved in the controversy, Cornerstone Technologies and Pennsylvania Micronics, were also at one time tenants in a building co-owned by Kanjorski. Several individuals familiar with the situation have publicly stated in news reports that Kanjorski was essentially in control of the two firms.
The Pennsylvania Democrat has repeatedly denied taking part in any improper or illegal activities.
Kanjorski has said he has no direct or indirect influence over the two companies at the heart of the allegations, and he told the Wilkes Barre Times Leader in February that the ethics committee had given him oral approval in 1995 to vote on appropriations bills including earmarks for the two firms.
Where's Paul Krugman when you need him? Why isn't he decrying the special favors that Kanjorski is steering to his family?
Another sad fact about this case is the fact that both Republicans and Democrats are playing politics with the ethics process.
The standoff over Kanjorski leaves in place the undeclared five-year truce over use of the ethics process that went into effect following the clashes over former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who was attacked by Democrats over the interlocking network of political nonprofits under his control. Gingrich eventually paid a $300,000 fine for providing false information to the ethics committee, but only after charges and countercharges had been filed against senior lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Congressional watchdog groups have complained bitterly about the ethics cease-fire, saying worthy cases have not received the scrutiny they deserve because of fears of retaliation.
"What's the use of opposition parties if they won't root out corruption in the other party?"asked Gary Ruskin, director of the Congressional Accountability Project.
Where's Jefferson Smith when you need him?