Visclosky under the spotlight

posted at 12:20 pm on March 2, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Perhaps Pete Visclosky may have felt safe from scrutiny as long as his pork-buddy John Murtha attracted all of the attention — from the media as well as federal investigators.  With the collapse of lobbying group PMA, Visclosky finds himself exposed as a major player in PMA’s big-ticket contributions for pork projects.  In fact, Visclosky may have more at stake in the federal probe of PMA than anyone, including Murtha (via Instapundit):

PMA Group was once one of the biggest lobbying firms in Washington, specializing in securing defense earmarks for its clients. Now, the firm is disintegrating amid a federal investigation into allegations that its founder, Paul Magliochetti, a former top aide to Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., steered donations to lawmakers through sham donors. …

But few lawmakers have stronger ties to the firm than [Rep. Pete] Visclosky [(D-IN)]. His former congressional chief of staff worked as a lobbyist for the firm, and he received at least $100,000 in contributions from donors tied to PMA Group between 2006 and 2008, according to Federal Election Commission reports. PMA Group was the top donor to Visclosky’s 2008 re-election campaign.

From his seat on the House Appropriations Committee and its defense funding subcommittee, Visclosky has also reciprocated — helping to secure more than $23 million in earmarks in 2008 for clients of PMA Group.

“It’s pretty clear that Visclosky has deep ties to PMA Group,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive president of the Center for Responsive Politics.

In some ways, Visclosky’s story tells a generic tale of corruption that apply to more than a few of our elected Representatives and Senators on Capitol Hill.  He sits on the most powerful committee, Appropriations, which lays out the budget for the entire federal government.  His vote on budgetary matters has much more influence on spending than others, which allows Visclosky to champion or kill projects at whim — and donors know it.  That makes Visclosky the same as every other member of Appropriations, including the Republicans.

The question will be whether Visclosky actively sold his vote in return for contributions or personal remuneration.  The feds have seized PMA’s records, which might shed some light on the question, but no one has been charged with corruption or bribery … yet.  They seemed most interested in Murtha, but the sheer volume of contributions to Visclosky and his sponsorship of tens of millions of pork dollars to PMA clients in return certainly give an impression that Visclosky was available for rent, if not for sale.

Critics of porkbusters chide us for the relatively small pickings pork-barrel politics provides.  The amount of money isn’t the point; it’s the influence-peddling and corruption from earmarks that is thr corrosive danger.  Capitol Hill argues that it’s better to have Congress delineate spending on projects rather than faceless bureaucrats in federal agencies, but they have procurement rules imposed on their spending, including competitive bidding and conflict-of-interest restrictions that have the weight of criminal law.  Earmarks bypass all of that, and allow elected officials to set up contribution machines such as PMA.  In essence, they pay for their continued incumbency with our tax dollars, and regardless of how much that costs, it’s simply not democracy and it’s simply corruption.

Visclosky and his pals used PMA as an ATM machine to keep themselves in power.  Until we pressure Congress to end earmarks entirely, we will continue to see this same process of cronyism and patronage, selling out our ideals for 535 government sinecures to people of both parties.


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Comments

never heard of this guy — but then again, virtually noone nationally had heard of blago ~4 months ago [and that one worked out quite alright for the forces of good], soooo —

let the games begin!!

Buckaroo on March 2, 2009 at 12:25 PM

As has been shown by the Darleen Druyan story, payment doesn’t have to be in money.

unclesmrgol on March 2, 2009 at 12:26 PM

btw, where is his distrcit — being a corruptocrat in IN i presume indy or the nw corner?
:-)

Buckaroo on March 2, 2009 at 12:26 PM

Perhaps we should attach portable lie detectors to all members who sit on Appropriations…

myrenovations on March 2, 2009 at 12:27 PM

Wow, how shocking.

OmahaConservative on March 2, 2009 at 12:28 PM

He represents NW Indiana, which borders Chicago. In effect, this area is a suburb of Chicago. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

WashJeff on March 2, 2009 at 12:30 PM

Stop earmarks. GET YOUR HAND OUT OF MY POCKET! Seal the border, maintain strong nat. defense, and DRILL FOR SOME F*CKING OIL! Outside of these, I DON’T EVEN WANT TO HEAR ABOUT YOU!

marklmail on March 2, 2009 at 12:30 PM

Perhaps we should attach portable lie detectors to all members who sit on Appropriations…

myrenovations on March 2, 2009 at 12:27 PM

Why waste the money, all politicians are crooks these days one way or another.

saiga on March 2, 2009 at 12:30 PM

Yeah, but the lie detector would have a taser gun attached or a modified bark collar. Take a bribe… zzzz! Earmark… zzzz!

We just have to train them better.

myrenovations on March 2, 2009 at 12:33 PM

Years ago I heard someone say that there are really three parties in Washington – Republicans, Democrats, and Appropriators.

The huge failing of the Gingrich revolution was failing to end this. They term-limited the Committee and Subcommittee chairmen, but they didn’t do anything else to blow up the corrupt system. And then Tom DeLay got on the Appropriations Committee and it was all over. There were Republican versions of PMA all over Washington.

It’s an unfortunate loophole in the Constitution, and I think it requires a Constitutioanl amendment to fix. Maybe it’s time for an amendment that says the Appropriators cannot write anything into a bill that benefits their own constituency. Or that members of the Committee must be selected by lottery at the beginning of every Congress.

rockmom on March 2, 2009 at 12:34 PM

Until we pressure Congress to end earmarks entirely, we will continue to see this same process of cronyism and patronage, selling out our ideals for 535 government sinecures to people of both parties.

Yeah, I really wish John McCain would have talked about earmarks more during the campaign.

myrenovations on March 2, 2009 at 12:34 PM

Yep hes NW Indiana. Growing up in NW Indiana, I can assure you that he is apart of the Chicago political machine.

Jack Daniels on March 2, 2009 at 12:35 PM

He represents NW Indiana, which borders Chicago. In effect, this area is a suburb of Chicago. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

WashJeff on March 2, 2009 at 12:30 PM

Go ask the PUMAs what happened there the night of the Indiana primary. Verrrry interesting.

rockmom on March 2, 2009 at 12:35 PM

Like finding a snake in a snakepit.

The guy’s a Democrat, of course he’s dirty.

Aren’t the voters informed?

NoDonkey on March 2, 2009 at 12:39 PM

“Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.”

P.J. O’Rourke

Kevin in Washington State on March 2, 2009 at 12:42 PM

All of these guys are now making a grab for all of the dollars they can get their hands on. They know what’s coming and are bracing for the long term. If I were the IRS, I’d be checking on out of country bank accounts, just ask Alan Stanford.

hip shot on March 2, 2009 at 12:43 PM

He represents NW Indiana, which borders Chicago. In effect, this area is a suburb of Chicago.

Why, then he is qualified to be a czar of some sort in B Hussein O’s administration. He needs to demand an appointment.

OmahaConservative on March 2, 2009 at 12:53 PM

I would love to see Murtha taken out, like a corpulent whale on the end of the lance.

Even Sea Shepards would not protest that!

Mr. Joe on March 2, 2009 at 12:57 PM

…it’s simply not democracy and it’s simply corruption.

Ed, you idealistic fool, you’re just not looking at the big picture. And as soon as the DNC tells me what that big picture is, I promise to pass it along to you. Until then, you must have faith in the Democrats. They know what’s best.

SKYFOX on March 2, 2009 at 12:57 PM

I’ll go get the pop corn. This could take awhile. Aren’t they still mulling over Jefferson? And Rangel just got started.

GarandFan on March 2, 2009 at 12:58 PM

Great, lock up the lobbyists.

CIA Destroyed Nearly 100 Interrogation Tapes.

Smarter cover up than Nixon.

getalife on March 2, 2009 at 1:14 PM

Yep hes NW Indiana. Growing up in NW Indiana, I can assure you that he is apart of the Chicago political machine.

Jack Daniels on March 2, 2009 at 12:35 PM

Jack, NW Indiana has it’s own political machine of the democratic party.
I believe a previous felony conviction is a requirement to run for office here in Lake county

UNREPENTANT CONSERVATIVE CAPITOLIST on March 2, 2009 at 1:19 PM

Why the Hell does this country continue to elect/re-elect corrupt, putrid, cockroaches like these scum?

Next question, do these corrupt, corpulent, double-standard bearing ‘professional politicians’ (a three tier oxymoron) cross their fingers behind their backs when saying the Congressional Oath of Office? Or, since they’re Democrat (itself a synonym for corrupt), they believe the Oath doesn’t matter?

SeniorD on March 2, 2009 at 1:31 PM

Lake County is and always has been the most corrupt area of Indiana. There is a law there that when you are born, the doctor has to start you breathing by stamping a big D on your butt.

than faceless bureaucrats in federal agencies, but they have procurement rules imposed on their spending, including competitive bidding and conflict-of-interest restrictions that have the weight of criminal law.

That statement is not necessarily true, but sounds good. There are at least two types of earmarks – one that targets specific companies and contributors (for political purposes), and another that targets PROJECTS that need being done, but the bureaucracy will not process. Often congressmen and senators do not have enough clout, or do not cooperate enough to get these necessary projects funded in the general funding bills. They have no recourse but to get them funded through “earmarks”. On these projects, the full weight of the procurement system is in force and competitive bidding is the norm. That is not to say that the “good will” in the congressional district does not benefit the earmark author.

I object to the commenter that said “all politicians are crooks”. That is definitely not true, and pernicious to our democracy. The truth is probably that many politicians are crooks, and some to more of an extent than others. If you are going to throw out all politicians under the blanket accusation of all are crooked, why even try? Why even have elections. Let’s just turn the day-to-day running over to the posters at HA. They are the onliest honest people around. I can tell you this for sure, Senator Coburn is an honorable and honest man.

Old Country Boy on March 2, 2009 at 1:39 PM

Hey, he is a Democrat, which means he is above the law. They will probably find a place for him in the new Cabinet with the rest of the crooks.

DL13 on March 2, 2009 at 1:53 PM

Why the Hell does this country continue to elect/re-elect corrupt, putrid, cockroaches like these scum?

Liberals could care less about corruption. If letting a Bill Clinton squirrel away a few million for himself is the cost of moving the country to the left, so be it.

Moderates, OTOH, have no idea this sort of thing goes on among Democrats. The media only covers Democrat scandals when they are forced into it, so to the casual observers, Republicans have a “culture of corruption” and Democrats have the occasional bad apple.

18-1 on March 2, 2009 at 2:00 PM

Nothing to see here – move along.

Fuquay Steve on March 2, 2009 at 2:10 PM

As others have noted, NW Indiana is nothing more than an extension of Chicago and EVERYTHING that goes with it. If Pete only needs to answer to the “voters”, he will NEVER lose. No. Matter. What.

Brian Paasch on March 2, 2009 at 2:16 PM

I used to find something to write to my reps about once every 3 to 6 months. Now it is every 3 to 6 days. This government is basically corrupt and now with the chosen one in power the final nail’s are being put in our coffin. Elections won’t do it, a massive march on DC just might.

hillbilly on March 2, 2009 at 3:29 PM

“But Cheney and Haliburton….Bush and the Saudis….uh….Wiretapping…uh….Gitmo….ooops, …uh….Renditions…no…Corruption….um….”

Sigh, can you Democrats see why you earn our contempt?

GunRunner on March 2, 2009 at 8:28 PM