Naughty Judd Gregg made money off earmarks

Thanks to New Hampshire blogger Dean Barker I learned something new today about Senator Judd Gregg.  

According to the Associated Press,

President Barack Obama’s former nominee to become commerce secretary, Sen. Judd Gregg, steered taxpayer money to his home state’s redevelopment of a former Air Force base even as he and his brother engaged in real estate deals there, an Associated Press investigation found.

Gregg, R-N.H., personally has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in Cyrus Gregg’s office projects at the Pease International Tradeport, a Portsmouth business park built at the defunct Pease Air Force Base, once home to nuclear bombers. Judd Gregg has collected at least $240,017 to $651,801 from his investments there, Senate records show, while helping arrange at least $66 million in federal aid for the former base.

Sadly, this isn’t unprecedented or even the most egregious example of members of Congress profiting from earmarks. Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert sold real estate for nearly $2 million in profits after he secured federal earmarks to construct the Prairie Parkway near land he owned.

What looks corrupt in politics turns out to be legal more often than not, and that seems to be the case here. The AP says Senate ethics rules do not permit senators to direct earmarks to projects “solely” in order to benefit themselves or their family members financially, but of course Gregg could point to all kinds of benefits from redeveloping the former base.

“I am absolutely sure that in every way I’ve complied with the ethics rules of the Senate both literally and in their spirit relative to any investment that I’ve made anywhere,” Gregg told the AP. “These earmarks do not benefit me in any way, shape, manner financially, personally or in any other manner other than the fact that I’m a citizen of New Hampshire.”

Still, one wonders whether this story prompted Gregg to withdraw his nomination for Commerce Secretary. Whatever his reasons, we’re better off without him.

Members of Congress should stick to the usual form of legalized corruption and only seek earmarks that would personally profit their large campaign contributors.

No one raises ethical concerns about that behavior. As a bonus, donors who stand to gain from the earmarks may go the extra mile during the incumbent’s next tough campaign.

IL-Gov: Blago…as Dracula!

For all of you Castlevania fans out there. 😀  Though, even if you aren’t, this may still be funny.

Patrick Fitzgerald: Resign, governor! You don’t belong in this office!

Rod Blagoyevich: It was not by my hand that I am once again given office! I was elected here by constituents, who wished to pay me a salary!

PatFitz: Salary?! You embezzle people’s money, and make them your pawns!

Blago: Perhaps the same could be said of all politicians.

PatFitz: Your words are as empty as your ethics! The people of Illinois ill need a governor such as you!

Blago: What is a Senate seat? A f***in’ big deal of political clout!  But enough talk…have at you!

Taken and revised from my post here:… .  That post also includes the source quote, if you’re unfamiliar with it.

Exxon Ed Whitfield’s Continued Corruption

In 2006, we went a long way towards defeating corruption in the Congress. The former Republican Congress, led by such men as Tom Delay was shown the door by American voters. Despite this, we still have a long way to go towards defeating Corruption in the Congress. As long as men like Exxon Ed Whitfield are allowed to haunt the hallowed halls of Congress, we have work to do.

We have already seen how Exxon Eddie and his staff believe in theft and vandalism. We have seen how Exxon Eddie attacks opponents for supporting battered women and children. However, Exxon Eddie’s Corruption runs even deeper than that.

We can all see how Exxon Eddie owns much Exxon and Chevron stock. That in itself is not corrupt, but when you own stock and vote in the interests of that stock over the interests of your constituents, that is corrupt.

Although Kentucky has a multitude of farmland and could profit handsomely from investment in renewables, Exxon Eddie votes his stock options and against any kind of investment in Kentucky farmland by researching the fuels of the future. It seems his own profits are much more important to him than the betterment of our district. I am not against any American being successful, and making a profit, but to do so at the expense of those you have spent thousands of dollars of special interest money from Big Oil to attack opponents is corrupt.

Even more disturbing for 47 million Americans are the campaign contributions from Drug, Health, and Insurance industries. This insures that Exxon Ed Whitfield with do anything in his power to insure that the power to decide who gets healthcare in country will fall to the Drug, Health, and Insurance industries. Even healthcare for children is off the table for Exxon Eddie.

Now, call me what you will, but I think it is corrupt to take money from such organizations, and then deny healthcare coverage to millions of American CHILDREN!! From a party that will run on character, and “Christian Values”, I simply ask. What did Jesus say to us about the treatment of Children? Do you really believe it is Christian to deny healthcare to any child?

While we are talking character, I simply ask what kind of person, or campaign attacks and mocks a candidate for doing a fundraiser for a center that cares for battered women and children. I submit that Ed Whitfield should be there too, asking what he can do for some of the people that need it the most in this district. Not mocking those who do.

I will tell you all that this election DOES come down to character. On one side we have the character of a wife, mother, veteran, and fellow citizen of the First Congressional District of Kentucky, who lives and works among us and knows the battles we face because she faces them too. On the other side, we have a career politician, a Washington insider that has been corrupted by the lust for money and power that comes from being in that town too long. His campaign will say and do anything as evidenced by their very actions in this election. While we will fight them in the arena of ideas and character in any forum, we would rather lose than display the childish, unprofessional conduct that has marked their campaign.

We can win with the resources to run just some T.V. and radio. We have Whitfield running scared, and I honestly beieve by their recent actions they have some internal polling that isn’t too hot. Make a real diffence and a real statement this year. Support new Leadership!!:

Heather Ryan

Goal Thermometer

If we get T.V., we win!!

AL-01 Statement by Lodmell on Energy Bill Defeat

Please read this statement and consider whether this powerful new voice in Southern Democratic politics deserves your $upport.

Bush-Bonner gang torpedoes energy bill;

‘example of corrupt government at work’

Contact: Ben Lodmell, Candidate for Congress

              PO Box 40926 – Mobile, AL 36640

              Telephone: 251-404-2663

MOBILE, December 10, 2007 – When the Bush-Bonner gang torpedoed the Energy Bill last week it was “a near-perfect example of corrupt government at work,” according to a statement issued today by Ben Lodmell, Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from Alabama’s first congressional district.

“Had it passed, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 would have reduced oil imports, raised automobile fuel-efficiency standards for the first time in 32 years and required electric utilities to increase use of renewable energy, all of which are beneficial to the country,” Lodmell said. “But Bush’s man in Mobile, Rep. Jo Bonner, joined with every other Republican in Alabama’s congressional delegation to make sure the historic bill died so their friends in the oil and gas industry could remain fat and happy.”

What prompted Senate Republicans to cut off debate on the bill, which had been passed by a 231-to-181 margin in the House a day earlier, was a $21 billion tax package. Included was the rollback of $13.5 billion in tax breaks enjoyed by some of the country’s largest oil and gas companies. Among other things, the taxes would have been used to extend tax credits for wind, solar, and biomass power, as well as hybrid cars.

Adding to the Republican push to kill the Energy Bill was an earlier threat of another presidential veto if the bill passed with the contentious tax package and renewable energy requirement included.

“If enacted,” Lodmell said, “the bill would have required vehicles to average 35 miles per gallon, a 40% increase over current standards. The bill would have saved 1.1 million barrels of oil a day. It would have increased yearly ethanol production by seven-fold. And it would have required electric utilities to up their use of renewable energy sources by 15%. According to some estimates, that would have cut energy bills by as much as $18.1 billion by 2020 and up to $32 billion by 2030.”

“Clearly, the big winners here,” Lodmell said, “are no surprise. They’re the special interest groups the Bush-Bonner gang loves to make more and more profitable – the oil and gas companies and their cousins in the public utility industry, none of which is bashful about financially supporting the re-election campaigns of the politicians who support them.

“The big losers, however, are the American people, whose government has been taken from them and corrupted by those self-same special interests whose only interests are their own.”

Lodmell said it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Senate and House negotiators came up with a stripped-down compromise bill that in the last analysis satisfies no one but the President and his Congressional lackeys and their special interest benefactors.

“The only bright light in an otherwise dismal display of this corrupted Republican government at work,” Lodmell said, “is that Americans will have a chance at the ballot box next year to take our government back.”

Lodmell declared his candidacy for the Democratic Party’s nomination for Congress from the first district in August. He describes himself as the people’s representative. “I’m a fiscally responsible pragmatist and an independent-thinker who can bridge the ideological extremes that often get in the way of getting the people’s business done in Congress.”


MS-Gov Haley Barbour’s Ethical Wide Stance

The following was written by Matthew Krell for Cotton Mouth.  He writes at Street Prophets and Daily Kos under uID mkrell.

Haley Barbour has led, by most accounts, a fairly charmed life.  He’s gone from being a Republican in a single-party Democratic state, to being the second Republican governor of Mississippi since Reconstruction.  Along the way, Gov. Barbour has been chairman of the Republican National Committee and the lead partner in the most influential lobbying firm on the Republican side of the aisle.

But Barbour may have reached his apogee, and although I know it’s hardly Christian of me, I think his star may be about to fall – and it’s about time.

When Barbour was elected governor, he placed his assets in a blind trust.  For those of you who don’t know, a blind trust is a mechanism whereby a property owner can receive benefits from their property without having to abandon offices of public trust that might have a role to play in determining the value of their property.  In a blind trust, the trustee manages the beneficiary’s property, but the beneficiary can receive no information regarding the disposition of the property – they just receive the payouts to which the trust structure entitles them.

In Gov. Barbour’s case, he was entitled to $25,000 a month in payouts.  His initial trust included shares in his old lobbying firm worth over three-quarters of a million dollars.  Here’s what’s interesting, to me, at least:

What we have here is that some times Barbour has made statements that he did hold an equity position in the parent company of Barbour, Griffith and Rogers — now very much in the news for its representation of the Iraq political ambitions of former Iraq Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi — and at other times he said he had severed all ties to the firm but was getting a “retirement payment.”
  – Steve Clemons, The Atlantic

As Clemons points out in that same piece, Barbour’s old firm doesn’t provide retirement benefits.  So, either the Governor is receiving a benefit that no one else at BGR is getting (which might be legal, but certainly isn’t ethical), or the firm is making payments into his blind trust in return for some continuing service.

What sort of continuing service could the sitting Governor of Mississippi be providing to a lobbying firm?  Nothing good for the people of Mississippi, I’m sure.  But let’s not assume the worst.  Let’s assume that Gov. Barbour is simply receiving a pension benefit from BGR that no other member or employee of the firm gets.  Because you know, that’s totally fair.

But that’s not the end of the Governor’s ethical lapses.  Much has been made of the Governor’s nephews’ lobbying business in the Great State.  Particularly impressive has been the efficacy with which their client’s causes have made progress through the Legislature.  But more important than that, the Governor has seen fit to appoint family members time and time again to various governmental commissions that are overseeing the recosntruction of the state in the wake of Katrina.

Bloomberg News points out that the Barbour family members that have been overseeing Katrina reconstruction have been paid for lobbying services during their time on the panels.  Interestingly enough, the clients that paid the Governor’s nephews during this period managed to benefit from the work that they did on recovery, to the tune of almost three million dollars.  Isn’t that a strange coincidence?

I’m not so naive as to think that government doesn’t work via the personal connections between people.  As the governor’s lawyer puts it, Barbour “naturally is not going to be disinclined to help [his nephews] whenever he can.”  And I accept that.  The problem is the interconnectedness of the remunerative relationships.  The way that the Governor’s family gets appointed to help make recommendations for storm recovery – and the recommendations just magically happen to throw a lot of business to a lobbying client of the family.  There’s just something about the process that stinks.

And that stink is starting to stick to Haley Barbour.  The Clarion-Ledger is pissed about the monumental waste that Katrina recovery has involved.  Bloomberg’s Tim Burger is knocking the ball out of the park with his reporting on this, and the legalistic arguments of Barbour’s representatives ring hollow in a state that has seen two years of bull on the question of recovery.

If John Arthur Eaves is smart – and he must be, or he wouldn’t have been so successful, all evidence on the campaign trail to the contrary – he will hammer Barbour’s unwillingness to talk.  He will ask, what is Barbour hiding?  If there’s nothing to hide, why won’t Barbour let us see?

If Eaves can make this issue have legs, he may be able to make a race of it.

Cross-posted at Cotton Mouth