Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Earmark Bloopers/Felonious Behavior

Any cursory review of ethics in congress would not be complete without mentioning the omnipresent practice of writing up earmarks. Everyone probably remembers earmarks dominating some juncture of the national debate as the 2008 elections arrived. However earmarks, and their seemingly odious character, arose as yet another issue just prior to the 2006 midterms. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, a California congressman who sat on both Appropriations and Intelligence committees would use his position to yield federal monies where his surrogates (including Abramoff) saw fit. Using a lack of transparency made possible by the sometimes inherently secretive nature of the Intelligence Committee (where there are both "public" and "secret" aspects to budgeting)Cunningham had thought he could hide such behavior. (Oleszek, 47)

The congressman would eventually resign his seat following his conviction for several offenses. Had he not resigned his seat, his workload would have been severely limited as House rules hold that no member can be active in a any committee following felony convictions pending an investigation by the Ethics Committee. Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana suffered a somewhat similar fate prior to his conviction for “conspiring to bribe". however Speaker Nancy Pelosi demoted Jefferson from his committees prior to his conviction in a move to save face.

Note. From “Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process” by Walter J. Oleszek, 2007,p. 47. Copyright 2007 by CQ Press

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