masthead-highres

Friday, April 07, 2006

Earmark Scandal? DOJ Reportedly Investigating WV Congressman Following Nine-Month National Legal and Policy Center Investigation

Despite significant blogosphere attention to the dubious (or, at the very least, excessive) Congressional practice of "earmarking," I'm not seeing a lot of attention on blogs today about this press release from the National Legal and Policy Center:
NLPC Complaint Alleges Ranking House Ethics Committee Member Hid Assets and Funded Business Partner's Groups with Millions in Earmarks

The National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) today disclosed that it filed a 500-page Complaint on February 28 with the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia detailing hundreds of ethics law violations by Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV).

Rep. Mollohan is the ranking member of the House ethics committee and a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee. The Wall Street Journal this morning carried a front-page story about the case.

The lengthy complaint followed a nine-month investigation by NLPC, the ethics group that also broke the Boeing procurement scandal in 2003. NLPC alleged financial conflicts of interest by former Air Force official Darleen Druyun in negotiating the lease of refueling tanker aircraft. Ms. Druyun and Boeing CFO Michael Sears eventually served prison terms, and Boeing CEO Phil Condit resigned.

NLPC's investigation began when its review of the Financial Disclosure Reports of House Appropriations Committee members showed a sharp increase in Rep. Mollohan's assets from 2000 to 2004. A closer examination revealed that Mollohan and his wife had more than $2,000,000 in real estate investments with a former staffer, Laura Kuhns, and her husband. Kuhns ran a nonprofit, Vandalia Heritage Foundation, which had received more than $28 million in appropriations earmarks with Mollohan's help from 2000 through 2005. She was also on the board of other nonprofit groups which had received over $100 million in earmarks of federal funds during the same period with Mollohan's help.

Mollohan's 2000 Financial Disclosure Report listed his income-producing assets as being worth from $179,012 to $562,000 with liabilities of $170,000 to $465,000. Among the liabilities was Visa credit card debt listed as $45,003 to $150,000.

Just four years later, Mollohan's 2004 Financial Disclosure Report showed him with assets worth $6,313,025 to $24,947,000 offset by liabilities in the $3,665,011 to $13,500,000 range. It also showed him owning an oceanfront beach house on Bald Head Island, NC which was valued at $1,000,000 to $5,000,000. NLPC found that Mollohan was renting the beach house during the summer of 2005 for $11,975 a week.

The NLPC effort began in May 2005. Over the ensuing months, NLPC staff filed Freedom of Information Act requests and examined thousands of pages of real estate, financial and legal documents. Slowly a picture of Mollohan's finances emerged that was sharply different from the one being portrayed in the Financial Disclosure Reports...
Read the rest here.

The Wall Street Journal is covering this on page one today; their story includes a response from Rep. Mollohan, who says all of his financial investments are "aboveboard" and "every one of the earmarks is held to the highest standards of accountability."

Both NLPC and Wall Street Journal say the Justice Department, which declined to comment for the WSJ story, has opened an investigation.

This is worth watching. The NLPC is known to be careful about details and would not make charges lightly. And -- whatever the case may be in regard to Rep. Mollohan's personal finances, the amount of money being appropriated, apparently through earmarks, from federal taxpayers to these non-profits over a short period of time is truly astounding.

Addendum: Don Surber, a self-described "proud member of the MSM" in West Virginia, has comments. So do Josh Krausharr and Jonathan Martin, writing for Hotline on Call (with updates including comments by House Speaker Denny Hastert) and David Freddoso on the Human Events blog.

Addendum II: Josh Krausharr and Jonathan Martin are continuing updates at Hotline On Call. They now have posted lengthy responses from Rep. Mollohan. Rep. Mollohan focuses on the National Legal and Policy Center being a conservative group; he does not confirm, deny or otherwise comment upon the Wall Street Journal's report that the Justice Department has opened an investigation.

Other blogs covering the story: Kim Priestap at Wizbang, Irene at Corruption Chronicles, Redstate and Reconstitution.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a leftie activist group, has asked Rep. Mollohan to "temporarily step down" from his post as ranking member of the House Ethics Committee. If he does not do so "voluntarily," CREW's statement asks House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to do it for him.

Addendum, 4/8/06: Don Surber is staying on the story, posting additional commentary and links to other blogs and news outlets covering the Mollohan earmarks story today.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:18 PM

Copyright The National Center for Public Policy Research