Tag Archives: earmarks

Darrell Issa bribes himself with personal earmarks

As the richest person in the House of Representatives, Darrell Issa has a vast personal empire that includes a wide range of real estate holdings. His dealings around those real estate investments have raised legal and ethical questions in the past, and more recently Roll Call has questioned the line that divides his personal and political interests. This morning, ThinkProgress reports on a far more troubling conflict:

ThinkProgress has discovered more troubling evidence that Issa may have blended his work as a lawmaker with his own business empire. After founding a successful car alarm company, Issa invested his fortune in a sprawling network of real estate companies with holdings throughout his district. One of Issa’s most valuable properties, a medical office building at 2067 West Vista Way in Vista, California, is called the Vista Medical Center, and was purchased in 2008 for $16.6 million. Described as “a long-term investment,” the property was bought by a company called Viper LLC, a business entity operated by Issa’s family that Issa has up to a $25 million dollar stake in.

Around the same time, Issa made the Vista Medical Center purchase, the congressman began requesting millions of dollars worth of earmarks to widen and improve the highway adjacent to the building. In 2008, he requested $2 million to expand West Vista Way, the road in front of his “long-term investment,” but only received $245,000 from the government. The next year, Issa made another earmark request for improving the West Vista Way highway next to his building. He earmarked another $570,000, bringing his total to $815,000, to add parking lots, widen the road, add bus stops, improve the sewer system, and other utility work.

Issa has said that an “earmark is tantamount to a bribe.” While Issa has handed out earmarks to his campaign donors in the past, in this case, he appears to be helping himself.

Issa has spent months indignantly insisting that he needn’t answer for any of his own transparency or ethical shortcomings, even after more than 18,000 signatures were delivered to his office demanding that he disclose his meetings with lobbyists. We made that demand so the public would know who Darrell Issa is really working for in Congress. Today we have at least part of the answer — himself.

(I proudly manage the IssaWatch project for the Courage Campaign, where this is cross-posted. It’s also on Twitter and Facebook)

Put Up Or Shut Up, Please

Dave Johnson, Speak Out California.

There was a positive response to the idea from last week’s post, No Schools For You, that suggested,

“If an Assembly or Senate representative demanded cuts to schools, fire, etc. then the schools, fire, etc. in that representative’s district receive the entire cut!  This would be an honest application of representative democracy, allowing the citizens of an area to be governed according to their wishes without it affecting all of the citizens in the state.”

Seriously, the leaders of the Assembly and Senate should make the few Republican holdouts an offer: if they think government services to the state’s citizens are such a bad idea they should stop insisting on so much spending in their districts!  They say that government spending is a problem, why can’t they take those Republican governors who are refusing to accept any stimulus money as role models and refuse any state spending in their districts.  Their constituents can then show their overwhelming support for the anti-government ideology that their elected representatives espouse.

Several years ago, then-Senator Phil Gramm of Texas – a Republican – was one of the loudest to complain and complain about spending and “pork” and “earmarks” in the federal budget.  What is called “pork” and “earmarks” are special appropriations of funds by the Congress for specific projects in specific districts: a museum, science lab, agricultural study or bridge that is badly needed is funded by our government.  This is what Republicans call “pork” — government doing things that citizens need.  Well the biggest, most expensive project in the country at the time was the Superconducting Super Collider, a massive physics lab being built under the ground in Texas, employing hundreds and keeping many construction businesses going.  Well, when it came time to cut some spending the Congress took Senator Gramm at his word and killed the project.

So I think that it would be a very good idea to ask the Republican anti-tax ideologues to put up or shut up.  Give them the opportunity to put their (take away the) money where their mouths are.  If you want spending cuts, let us cut all the spending in your districts — or please shut up.

Your thoughts?  Leave a comment.

Click through to Speak Out California.

CA-52: Like Father, Like Son

First, it was Duncan Hunter Sr. who would always refuse to debate. He was the incumbent Republican, in a very red district, so in a way that makes sense. But now his son is doing it too. Only his son isn’t an incumbent, though he’s trying to run like one. First, it was a debate hosted by the East County League of Women Voters, next, it was a debate on a conservative radio show, hosted by Rick Amato. Little Duncan Jr. apparently is terrified of facing off with his opponent, Commander Mike Lumpkin. This tactic of avoiding debates is undemocratic, and insult to the voters of the 52nd district. We deserve to hear from the candidates themselves.

It’s a pattern, and an unfortunate one, of behaving exactly as his father does.

Next on the list is his campaign contributions, the names of his top contributors bare a startling resemblance to those who’ve received earmarks from his father, daddy Duncan calling in favors for his heir? Junior has previously defended the importance of earmarks, by claiming that it’s the only way the Pentagon gets funding. A remarkably stupid statement, particularly given that he himself is a Marine Reservist, he should know better. Then again, he’s a Hunter, so “How government works,” along with integrity and decency, are concepts lost on him.

Judge someone by the company they keep? Perhaps we can. Little Duncan seems to be best buds with the Minutemen, endorsed by them, received money from their PAC, he even spent 4th of July palling around with those ludicrous vigilantes. His father was obsessed with “Border security” as well.

The earmarks and the Minutemen ties would be one thing, if he was at least willing to face his opponent in a debate, giving the voters the opportunity to get to know the both of them. But he isn’t. He wants the seat handed to him, thinks it’s his inheritance, and is generally behaving like a petty, spoiled brat.

Mike Lumpkin of course, put it far more diplomatically:

“Duncan Hunter Junior expects to inherit his father’s congressional seat and not work hard by showing voters what he’s made of in a broadcast debate,” says Commander Lumpkin. “But being a member of Congress is a job-not an entitlement. In a debate he can’t ask his father what to say; he has to be his own man and stand on his own two feet.”

Mike Lumpkin’s website

Mike’s ActBlue page

Lawsuit Filed in Calvert Land Deal

Late on Friday, word broke that a lawsuit had been filed over Ken Calvert‘s most recent shady land dealings. As the PE reports, “The Jurupa Area Recreation and Park District is suing the Jurupa Community Services District, charging the water and sewer agency with fraud and deceit in connection with the 2006 sale of property to Rep. Ken Calvert and his partners.”

This is centered around California law requiring that all government land coming up for sale first be offered to other government agencies. In this case, the Jurupa Area Recreation and Park District wanted this land for new development, and had for several years before the sale. Instead, the 4 acres was sold directly to Ken Calvert for a cut rate, circumventing the Recreation and Parks district. They were, to put it mildly, miffed.

A Riverside grand jury has now determined that the land deal violated state law, clearly the way for this lawsuit to proceed. Calvert, for his part, is no stranger to this or other exceptionally shady land dealings in his district. In exchange for his preferential (and illegal) treatment in this deal, Calvert delivered for Community Services board members prime access to members of Congress in order to lobby for water project funding. Water projects that just so happen to directly benefit the property that Calvert bought illegally.

That is, Calvert received an illegal sweetheart deal from the Community Services District, then brought the board members to DC and hooked them up with other Congressmembers to get water projects for the property they sold him illegally.

Calvert of course has a long-standing record of corrupt dealings. So much so that even the right wing blogosphere flipped out about another corrupt Congressman being appointed to the appropriations committee back in 2007. Back in 2004 he was running around Saudi Arabia with Duke Cunningham (R-Tucson Federal Correctional Institution) and unindicted co-conspirator #3 aka Thomas Kontogiannis. He also pushed through more than $90 million in earmarks for a lobbying firm now under federal investigation (so is Calvert and Jerry Lewis for that matter). He’s also pulled down earmarks of $1.2 million for transit improvements around seven of his properties in Corona.

Just another in a long line of Calvert fleecing the public to line his pockets. Perhaps what we’ve come to expect from the modern GOP, but Calvert has grown so comfortable that he’s not worried about bringing Dick Cheney in to fundraise for him. Dick Cheney. Who absolutely nobody likes.

Bill Hedrick is looking to send Calvert a wakeup call this year.

Oblivious Far-Right OC Activists Demand More Failed Conservatism

OK, this is hilarious.  With wrong-track numbers at over 80% and the current President near historic low approval ratings, you’d think this would be a time of soul-searching in the GOP.  Not so.  In fact, the Lincoln Club of Orange County, which is about as close as you can get to the eliminate-the-income-tax, stop-the-fluoridation-of-water far-right nutters in this entire country, is stamping its little feet over the fact that nobody likes their failed policies anymore.  They are calling for more completely unpopular ideas or they’ll withhold all their money.

(keep in mind when reading that this is Novakula, and as a GOP propagandist his view is skewed, but he has good sources inside the party.)

The Lincoln Club of Orange County is telling the GOP leaders of both the House and Senate that it is too late to repent. They must go — or else lose big money.

The message: “Come Nov. 5, should the current GOP leadership in either house survive to lead in a new Congress, the Lincoln Club of Orange County will review the financial backing of all congressional Republicans, and we urge others to do likewise. A GOP caucus that would re-elect such leaders is not one we would likely continue to support. Because, simply put, we refuse to support a permanent minority.”

The Lincoln Club estimates that its nearly 300 members will together contribute $1.5 million to federal causes and candidates in the 2008 election cycle. The club is spreading its message to angry Republicans throughout California and around the nation. The ultimatum finds responsive members of the House (if not the Senate), who even now are preparing a housecleaning after the additional loss of seats in this year’s election […]

That’s the view expressed in the Lincoln Club paper signed by Rich Wagner, the group’s president, and Chip Hanlon, a board member. It deplores the refusal by party leaders to support a one-year moratorium on earmarks, whose 285 percent growth when Congress was under Republican control is “the perfect symbol of the GOP-led profligacy that drives us crazy still.” Earmarks “epitomize the fiscal recklessness that led to Republicans becoming a minority in 2006. . . . It’s no wonder the Republican leadership continued to fail on . . . entitlement reform and a reduction in federal spending.”

They really do think, even at this late date, that their minority status is entirely attributable to federal earmarks which have almost no impact on the overall budget (try reducing military spending if you want to make a difference) and failing to eliminate Social Security or Medicare.  Nothing to do with a failed war in Iraq, skyrocketing costs for food, energy and health care, the crisis of climate change, our hated position in the world, growing inequality and the great risk shift onto the middle class, etc., etc., etc.

Here on Planet Earth, it’s amusing to see this crack-up between separate factions of the Birch Society crowd.  Some of the GOP establishment know that their policies are unpopular, and they hope to put some lipstick on them in presenting them to the public.  The rest, including the Lincoln Club, want their version of Gilded Age conservatism, disaster capitalism, denial of science and xenophobia to take center stage.

Conservative activists are preparing to do battle with allies of Sen. John McCain in advance of September’s Republican National Convention, hoping to prevent his views on global warming, immigration, stem cell research and campaign finance from becoming enshrined in the party’s official declaration of principles.

McCain has not yet signaled the changes he plans to make in the GOP platform, but many conservatives say they fear wholesale revisions could emerge as candidate McCain seeks to put his stamp on a document that currently reflects the policies and principles of President Bush.

In fact, Bush’s name is on 91 out of the 100 pages of the platform, which means the rewrite will be a knock-down drag-out fight between the really conservative and the really really conservative, with all the attendant ugliness on full display.  

It is to laugh.

Darrell Issa has a Better Idea

Hammering on this a lot, but it just keeps getting more ridiculous

So Darrell Issa finds it inappropriate for the federal government to be funding medical care for sick 9/11 rescue workers.  Says Rep. Issa, “I have to ask … why the firefighters who went there and everybody in the city of New York needs to come to the federal government for the dollars versus this being primarily a state consideration.”

So as to prove that he’s not just running off incoherently about hating rescue workers, Issa wants you to know he’s proud of his alternative plans for spending federal funds.  To that end, he’s triumphantly sent around a press release listing all of his new earmarks (word doc, h/t Chris Reed).  So what, you’re probably wondering, has Representative Issa chosen to crow about that exemplifies the “local money for local issues, federal money for screw you” spending mantra?  Here’s the quick list:

San Diego Regional Interoperable Computer Aided Dispatch Project -$6 million

San Diego Regional Communications System (RCS) Upgrade -$3.5 million

Gang Prevention Program (City of Oceanside) -$500K

Lake Elsinore Emergency Operations Center -$250K

Murrieta Creek Flood Control Project -$13 million

San Luis Rey Flood Control Project -$7.2 million

Perris II Desalter (Perris, CA) -$2 million

Non-Potable Distribution Facilities and Demineralization/Desalination Recycled Water Treatment and Reclamation Facility Project (Riverside County) -$2 million

Santa Margarita Conjunctive Use Project (Camp Pendleton) -$1 million

San Jacinto & Upper Santa Margarita Watersheds Project -$355K

San Diego County Fire Safety and Fuels Reduction Program -$45 million

Corpsmen/Medics Civilian Nursing Training Program (Oceanside) -$1.6 million

Vista Community Clinic -$1 million

North County Health Project Oceanside Clinic Expansion (Oceanside) -$1 million

Railroad Canyon I-15 interchange project -$8 million

State Route 76 (widen and realign) -$5 million

San Luis Rey Transit Center (Oceanside) -$3.1 million

West Vista Way (City of Vista, widen) -$2 million

French Valley Airport (Temecula) -$1 million

Renovation and expansion of Fallbrook Boys and Girls Club -$500K

Some pretty nice projects in there. But it begs the question: Ahem, why do all these people need “to come to the federal government for the dollars versus this being primarily a state [or local] consideration?” Rep. Issa? Bueller? Bueller?

Lemme just venture one guess. Rescue workers in New York don’t vote in Temecula or Oceanside do they? Oh yeah. So only when Issa is trying to hook it up for his own self should federal money be spent on state and local projects.  Not only cruel and hateful, but selfish and duplicitous too.  He’s building himself quite a nice collection of adjectives.  Full of crap isn’t technically an adjective, but it also applies.

Robert Hamilton is challenging Darrell Issa this year.

Cross posted at San Diego Politico

Earmark Hypocrisy

John Campbell [R, CA-48] thinks his public attacks on earmarks, including broadsides against Andre Agasi’s highly touted charter school in Las Vegas, a Sherwin-Williams research project, John Murtha, and Charles Rangel’s education center, mark him as a fiscal conservative for his base.  But Campbell’s votes in 2006 during the Republican control of the house mark him as a fiscal hypocrite.

Let’s be honest about John Campbell [R, Ca-48].  He is not a deficit fighter, but a political hack.  He now plays the curmudgeon on earmarks, but his 2006 voting record under the Republican majority in Congress is a different story.  For example, Campbell voted, without a hint of objection to ridiculous earmarks like:
  $1 million for Southern and Eastern Kentucky Tourism Department;
  $250,000 for the Montana World Trade Center;
  $300,000 for the Bronx Council for Marketing of Local Business Art Initiatives;
  $250,000 for the Bronx On-Water Learning Program;
John Campbell’s claims fiscal superiority, but his votes in 2006 belie a different motive.  duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) said, “Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue.”  Campbell is the classic proof of the statement.

Look at my web-site for more on Campbell.  SteveYoungforCongress.com
You can contribute at Act Blue

Steve Young


CA-41: Lewis Aide Subpoenaed

That was quick.  The new US Attorney for the Los Angeles region, Thomas O’Brien, was just sworn in a week or so ago.  He’s apparently making the Jerry Lewis investigation a priority:

A federal grand jury in Los Angeles has issued a subpoena for a House Appropriations Committee staffer as part of the ongoing probe of Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the powerful panel.

Greg Lankler, a staffer on the House Appropriations Committee’s Defense subcommittee, was recently subpoenaed by a federal grand jury looking into Lewis, according to House insiders.

The subpoena is for both documents and testimony, although it is unclear at this point whether Lankler will cooperate. The matter has been forwarded to the House general counsel’s office, which is still studying the subpoena.

There hasn’t been a subpoena in this case, which involves Lewis’ moving millions of dollars’ worth of earmarks to his friend, the ex-Congressman and lobbyist Bill Lowery, in over a year.  Investigators on the case have been running out of money.  So it is a bit of a surprise that this subpoena would emerge.  The big difference in recent weeks is the confirmation of Thomas O’Brien.

Draw your own conclusions.

CA-04: Doolittle’s Gravy Train Still Alive And Well

All that snooping by federal investigators hasn’t stopped John Doolittle from continuing to reward his friends with favors.

Rep. John T. Doolittle, who’s been caught up in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, has requested a substantial earmark for a college represented by one of his former aides, who, coincidentally, has just been contacted by the FBI.

Pete Evich, a lobbyist and Doolittle’s legislative director until 2002, has been representing Sierra College, which could end up receiving $300,000 if the congressman’s request is approved.

My favorite part of this is that it comes right at the time when Pete Evich is being sought by federal investigators for questioning about Doolittle’s role in the Abramoff scandal.  It doesn’t take a genius to see that as a potential payoff; Evich gets his $300,000 for the college, and he suddenly has a memory lapse when speaking with the FBI.

Incidentally, this is just one of the earmarks we know about, Doolittle has repeatedly refused to release the others.

Brown said that with most U.S. debt now owned by OPEC nations and military rivals like China , “every wastefully spent dollar by our Congress represents a national security risk.”

“Addressing this growing threat starts with full public disclosure of all earmark requests,” Brown said.

Personally, I believe earmarks are occasionally valuable and overblown in their purported role as the most wasteful portion of the budget (I’d direct your attention to the useless WWII-era weapons systems we’re still building), but the fact that the only Doolittle earmarks we DO know about are going to friends is pretty telling.

CA-41: Jerry Lewis Knows Little About Science

In case you thought that Crazy Dana Rohrabacher is the only person in Congress who refuses to recognize the reality of climate change, Chris Mooney is ready to dispel that myth at Intersection. Believe it or not, Mr. Earmarks is amazed by how little we know about science. (From Intersection)

“It’s amazing how little we know about the science of our environment and a thing called climate change. Before we automatically throw money into this subject matter we ought to know what we’re talking about. Global warming is apparently a problem, but global cooling can be as well.”

Yes, believe it or not, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Scandal) actually said that. So why exactly did he say this? And why is anyone taking him seriously? Follow me after the flip for more…

So why did Jerry Lewis start talking about “global cooling” and throwing money into a subject matter that one doesn’t know about? Why did he start talking about an obsolete climatological theory? Why did Jerry Lewis say all that s**t?

Oh yeah, that’s right! He doesn’t want to “throw money” to the NOAA’s climate program! And why should our government actually throw money toward such junk as this?

NOAA’s Climate goal is to: “Understand and describe climate variability and change to enhance society’s ability to plan and respond”.

NOAA’s Climate Goal is an end-to-end endeavor focused on providing decision makers a predictive understanding of the global climate system and to “translate” this information so the public can incorporate the information and products into their decisions. These outcomes are achieved through implementation of a global observing system, focused research to understand key climate processes, improved modeling capabilities, and the development and delivery of climate information services.

Come on now! Who needs more understanding of the global climate system? Who needs more observation of the climate? Who needs predictions and projections? Who needs to understand the consequences of climate change? Who needs understanding of science?

Oh wait, didn’t someone just say this?

“It’s amazing how little we know about the science of our environment and a thing called climate change. Before we automatically throw money into this subject matter we ought to know what we’re talking about.”

Oh yeah, that’s Jerry Lewis! No, not that Jerry Lewis! Wait, do you think he’s looking into a new career in comedy once he leaves that other boring job he’s in now? ; )

Oh, wait! Jerry Lewis wouldn’t be the first Republican Congresscritter to try his hand at comedy? Remember when Think Progress reported on Dana Rohrabacher’s attempt at stand-up back in February?

[…] We don’t know what those other cycles were caused by in the past. Could be dinosaur flatulence, you know, or who knows? We do know the CO2 in the past had its time when it was greater as well. And what happened when the CO2 was greater since then and now? There have been many cycles of up and down warming. So with that said, I think that we’ve had a great discussion today.

I guess it is funny how these Republicans claim that they can’t support taking action on the real scientific problem that’s global climate change because there supposedly isn’t “enough hard science” backing up this “theory”… However when federal agencies like NOAA are doing all the important research and finding the “hard science” that’s backing up this theory, they don’t want to fund the research. It would be so hilarious if it weren’t so real and so dangerous. Climate change is a serious problem, and we’ll face some real, frightening consequences if we don’t act soon. However, these science-doubting Republicans don’t want to take any action on this real global security crisis. And no, they don’t even want to fund any research that would help us find real solutions to this real crisis.

So why again are these science-doubters allowed to say these things in Congress? Shouldn’t our representatives in Washington be working on solutions to our climate crisis? Oh wait, the House now has that select committee on global warming! Apparently, the Democratic majority on Capitol Hill is taking the climate crisis seriously. However, the Republicans would rather continue denying reality. And so long as science-doubting Republicans as Jerry Lewis continue to disregard scientific reality, they are doing a real disservice to their nation and to their communities.

Jerry Lewis obviously knows little about science, and he knows even less about how best to serve his constituents.