“It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native criminal class except Congress.” —Mark Twain
“Being elected to Congress is regarded as being sent on a looting raid for one’s friends.”—George Will
Someone, most likely a Congressman or one of his victims, once observed that you can steal more money with a pen than you can with a pistol—after all, no one is more adept at larceny than the bi-partisan grifters working Capitol Hill. Washington Post reporters David S. Fallis, Scott Higham, Kimberly Kindy and researcher Bobbye Pratt followed the trail of the boodle, comparing 10 years worth of Congressional financial disclosure forms with public records
[…] The resulting snapshot was then matched to earmarks and other spending provisions members sought for pet projects. The process uncovered nearly 50 members who helped direct millions of dollars in earmarks to projects that either held the potential to enhance the surroundings of a lawmaker’s own property, or aided entities connected to their immediate family. Lawmakers said their earmarks and spending provisions were done to benefit the public, not their private interests.
And if you believe that last bit, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you. A half-dozen of the notables:
Sen. James M. Inhofe (R – Okla.) Senator Inhofe has grabbed about $1.8 million to study the widening of a road near a commercial property in Tulsa co-owned by Mrs. Imhofe. A spokesman for the senator insisted that local officials requested the funding and that the roadwork “is a highly beneficial project that will create new jobs and do much to strengthen Oklahoma’s economy.”
Rep. Darrell Issa (R – Calif.) Rep. Issa appropriated $815,000 between 2007 and 2009 to widen a road near a medical building in California that Issa had purchased for $16.6 million in 2008. “Rep. Issa’s request for the widening project was made on behalf of local leaders and predated his purchase of the medical center building,” a spokesman said.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D – Tex.) The charming Mrs. Jackson-Lee grabbed approx-imately $5.3 million for the University of Houston in 2009 and 2010. Her husband, Dr. Elwyn Lee, was coincidentally vice president of student affairs and vice chancellor of student affairs for the university at the time. Jackson-Lee would not respond to WaPo’s requests for comment.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R – Alaska) Murkowski earmarked $6.9 million between 2005 and 2009 for road improvements that began, strangely enough, near a property she had purchased from a friend and real estate developer at a reduced price. Murkowski said through a spokesman that she had the support of local and state officials. “All my efforts and actions were proper on this project.”
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D – Calif.) San Fran Nan funneled $50 million toward a light-rail project providing direct access to San Francisco’s Union Square and Chinatown for neighborhoods south of Market Street. Pelosi’s husband owns a four-story commercial building nearby. A spokesman for Pelosi said the project was requested by community leaders…
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D – Miss.) Thompson used $900,000 in earmarks to repave roads in Hind County, Mississippi, one of which coincidentally is where Bennie and his daughter own homes. “I didn’t say, “Do the street that I live on,” Thompson said. “The earmark went to the county…”
Congressional flim-flammers have ensured that following the money is a diffficult and tedious business:
[…] For instance, they are not required to disclose the location or value of their personal residences or of properties that do not generate income. They are not required to disclose the addresses of properties held in partnerships, limited-liability companies and corporations.
Lawmakers are also not required to list the employment of their children or parents, or the work titles, job descriptions or salaries of their spouses. Forms are submitted on paper and cannot be electronically searched.
Embezzlement is a legal term for the illegal appropriation of funds or other items of value. In the legislature, this is referred to as an “earmark.”
Can anybody say, “Term limits?”