Nonprofit Newswire | Funneling Earmarks OK for Congressman

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January 27, 2010; Wheeling News- Register | The U.S. Justice Department has concluded that Congressman Alan Mollohan’s (D-WV) funneling of earmarks to nonprofits created and staffed by his former staff and professional or business colleagues ($200 million in earmarks to five nonprofits between 1997 and 2006) isn’t an offense worth criminal charges. Wrapping himself in a cloak of righteousness, Mollohan crowed that the Justice Department decision puts to rest the politically motivated character attacks he ascribed to the right wing think tank, the National Legal and Policy Center.

Hardly right wing, Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), pointed out that Mollohan could still be a candidate for violation of Congressional ethics standards if the House Ethics Committee, which had deferred action while a federal investigation was pending, chooses to act. But Sloan, whose organization declared Mollohan one of the “15 most corrupt members” of Congress, wasn’t confident that anything would happen on that front. The Ethics Committee, she intimated, would likely conclude that since Justice exonerated Mollohan, they would consider the matter closed—even though ethics violations and criminal charges are not the same.

If Sloan is right about the Ethics Committee, this will give other members of Congress the green light to funnel earmarks to nonprofits that they, their staff, their colleagues, and their relatives might establish, control, and run, and that would not be good news.—Rick Cohen