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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Senior Democrat Under Investigation

From the New York Times:

As lawmakers have increasingly slipped pet projects into federal spending bills over the past decade, one lawmaker has used his powerful perch on the House Appropriations Committee to funnel $250 million into five nonprofit organizations that he set up.

Those actions have prompted a complaint to federal prosecutors that questions whether any of that taxpayer money helped fuel a parallel growth in his personal fortune.

The most ambitious effort by the congressman, Alan B. Mollohan, is a glistening glass-and-steel structure with a swimming pool, sauna and spa rising in a former cow pasture in Fairmont, W.Va., thanks to $103 million of taxpayer money he garnered through special spending allocations known as earmarks.

The headquarters building is likely to sit largely empty upon completion this summer, because the Mollohan-created organization that it was built for, the Institute for Scientific Research, is in disarray, its chief executive having resigned under a cloud of criticism over his $500,000 annual compensation, also paid by earmarked federal money.

The five organizations have diverse missions but form a cozy, cross-pollinated network in the forlorn former coal capitals of north-central West Virginia. Mr. Mollohan has recruited many of their top employees and board members, including longtime friends or former aides, who in turn provide him with steady campaign contributions and positive publicity in their newsletters.


Figure it out yet who this is, what party Mr. Mollohan is?
We are quite a ways into the article now...and you still do not know what party he is!

Let's continue where we left off:

The conservative National Legal and Policy Center in Falls Church, Va., filed a 500-page complaint with the United States attorney for the District of Columbia on Feb. 28 challenging the accuracy of Mr. Mollohan's financial disclosure forms. The forms show a sharp spike in assets and income from rental properties from 2000 to 2004.

Federal authorities said yesterday that they were reviewing the complaint, which was reported in The Wall Street Journal.

The case has led several Republican leaders to call for Mr. Mollohan's removal from the House ethics committee, where he is the senior Democrat.

AHA! Eight paragraphs and 314 words into the story we FINALLY find out he is a DEMOCRAT. He is not some Democrat lackey, he is a Senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee and the Ethics Committee.

Among the charges:

For the period 1996 through 2004, NLPC found that the Financial Disclosure Reports:

* Repeatedly failed to disclose real estate assets which public records showed were owned by Mollohan and his wife

* Repeatedly failed to disclose financial assets which public records showed were owned by Mollohan and his wife

* Repeatedly failed to disclose major loans which were used in the acquisition of financial assets which were not being disclosed

* Failed to disclose interests in companies which owned major assets

* Grossly undervalued assets, giving purported valuations which were a small fraction of the assets true value

Hat Tip: Two Conservatives

He was unapologetic about his earmarks, saying that local lawmakers knew their constituents' needs best, and that he was hardly alone in mainlining money back home. "The amount of money in the transportation bill spent in Illinois in earmarked projects is astronomical," he said. "It puts $100 million on the I.S.R. building in real perspective."

The earmarking occurred as an abundance of local projects was added to spending bills outside the normal budget review, from $32.9 billion in 2000 to $64 billion in 2006, the Congressional Research Service said. Although it is impossible to trace individual earmarks for certain, an analysis by Citizens Against Government Waste, a Washington watchdog, found $480 million added in the House or in conference committees, most likely by Mr. Mollohan, for his district since 1995. That sum helped West Virginia rank fourth on the watchdog list $131.58 for each of the 1.8 million West Virginians this year.

I keep hearing earmarked funds, and maybe I am missing something here, but if these funds were earmarked for something else, and this Congressman funneled it into sone 'non-profit' funds he created that are closely tied to the Congressman...isn't that illegal?

I guess the question of the day is, what were the funds earmarked for that ended up in Congressman Mollohan's special interests?

"He's basically judge, jury and executioner for all this money," said Keith Ashdown, vice president of the Taxpayers for Common Sense in Washington.

Kenneth F. Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, said the bulk of his complaint to the federal prosecutors was made up of public documents that showed 260 instances of omitted or undervalued assets on the financial disclosure forms that Mr. Mollohan filed with the ethics committee from 1996 to 2004.

Those forms show a jump in Mr. Mollohan's portfolio from less than $500,000 in assets generating less than $80,000 in income in 2000 to at least $6.3 million in assets earning $200,000 to $1.2 million in 2004, along with large mortgage debts.

This is a astronomical increase for just 8 years!

"The congressman gave us money" for this or that is how the groups' leaders frequently explain their programs. And they generally return the favor at fund-raisers.

A review of campaign finance records by The New York Times shows that from 1997 through February 2006, top-paid employees, board members and contractors of the five organizations gave at least $397,122 to Mr. Mollohan's campaign and political action committees.

Thirty-eight individuals with leadership roles, including all five chief executives all but one of whose 2004 salaries outpaced the $98,456 national average among nonprofit leaders contributed, often giving the maximum allowed.

Almost sounds, to a lesser extent, like Money Laundering the way this is put.
The Senator gives to 'non-profit' funds that are closely associated with him, or have people who are closely associated with him running them, and they in turn raise money and contribute to his campaign.

Not saying it is, but sure seems like it from the description. Be honest with yourself while you read this and tell me this doesn't smell.

The team includes overlapping rosters among the five organizations. In addition to Ms. Kuhns's multiple roles, Jack Carpenter, an old friend of the congressman, is vice president of the consortium and chairman of the MountainMade board. The board once included Mr. Mollohan's wife, Barbara.

Raymond A. Oliverio, executive vice president of the consortium, is also treasurer of the Robert H. Mollohan Foundation, named for the congressman's late father. Gina Fantasia, Vandalia's legal counsel, moved over last year from the Institute for Scientific Research. Her brother Nick, mayor of Fairmont, is chairman of the Vandalia Redevelopment Corporation, a heritage foundation sister.

"He effectively referred to it as a family," said a person involved in the Mollohan network, likening the operation to keiretsu, the Japanese concept of intermeshed corporate boards.

How fitting he has referred to it as the 'Family'.
Just on this bit of revelation on who is running what, and the close ties to the Congressman should warrant an investigation.

If anything to avoid the suspicion of inappropriate behavior.

TwoConservatives have an excellent breakdown on this with their post: Culture Of Corruption could haunt Democrats.

TwoConservatives bring up an excellent point in this:

The Republicans have called for him to step down pending the outcome of the investigation.

Now, he has not been found guilty of anything. But to contrast, Tom DeLay, who according to the democrats is the epitome of the culture of corruption, has next to NO assets listed on his disclosure form.

By the same rights, shouldn't the Senior Democrat Mollohan step down since he is under investigation?

Mollohan Campaign Finance Information at Political Money Line's - Money in Politics

Personal Financial Disclosure for Alan B. Mollohan (D-WVA)

Another good place to see how and where Government Taxpayer Money is wasted is at Citizens Against Government Waste - America's #1 Taxpayer Watchdog

And another good list is at Porkbusters, where they have identified $23,345,344,262 in pork identified so far.

More reports and blogging on this at:
The National Journal - Hotline, Instapundit, National Center Blog, Rhymes With Right, Corruption Chronicles, Don Surber, Outside the Beltway,'s Politics Blog, Clean Up Washington, Flopping Aces