Fwd: Notable News The Free Congress Commentary by Marion Edwyn Harrison, Esq.: Land or Water - Too Many Members of Congress Are Out of Control

John Quayle blueoval57 at VERIZON.NET
Tue Aug 15 22:04:07 MDT 2006

>The Free Congress Commentary
>Land or Water – Too Many Members of Congress Are Out of Control
>By Marion Edwyn Harrison, Esq.
>August 3, 2006
>No recent Congressional scandal or appearance of 
>scandal has equaled the drama of $ 90,000.00 all 
>neatly rolled up in the Congressional office 
>safe of Representative William J. Jefferson 
>(D-LA). But scandals and grounds for scandal 
>keep seeping into public view, rather like a 
>sewer in need of maintenance, its disgorge 
>erratic in filth, frequency and 
>damage.  Profligate and outrageous earmarks may 
>be the worst.  Mighty millions of dollars of 
>taxpayers’ money are diverted to projects 
>(worthy or otherwise) of United States Senators, 
>and more frequently of those Representatives who 
>exercise the necessary temerity and clout. The 
>process is mostly unobtrusive except for 
>bragging to constituent beneficiaries. Some 
>private enrichments add to the list.
>Two dissimilar adventures have been exposed thus 
>far in the 109th Congress. One might not have 
>been noticed had it not involved the Speaker of 
>the House of Representatives, or the other had 
>it not involved the House Appropriations 
>Committee Chairman. They hardly are the most 
>egregious - indeed, many are vastly worse.
>Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) reaped a 
>windfall profit in real estate.   The accusation 
>is that the Speaker in 2005 earmarked 
>appropriations totaling some $ 207 million of 
>Federal taxpayers’ money to construct a highway 
>and an interchange near Plano, Illinois, in his 
>Congressional district. All Federal highways, at 
>least presumptively, are part of our interstate 
>commerce system and, therefore, a 
>Constitutionally permissible Federal 
>expenditure.  There was some local disagreement 
>as to the worth of this particular proposed 
>construction but that does not trigger a Constitutional question.
>The question, rather, is that of the Speaker’s 
>motivation and lack of disclosure. The Speaker 
>and two partners in 2002 lawfully purchased some 
>196 acres of a largely landlocked site without 
>major roadway access.    That they did so 
>through a trust, without public disclosure of 
>ownership interest, may reveal motivation.
>           In 2005, shortly after the 
> appropriation, the land trust of which the 
> Speaker was an equity owner sold the land to a 
> developer.   The Speaker’s share of the gross 
> profit apparently was about $ 1.8 
> million.   The Speaker, so far as one can 
> discern, violated neither a statute nor a 
> flimsy House ethics rule.  The Speaker is, of 
> course, under the Constitution the head of the 
> Legislative Department or Branch of the 
> tripartite Federal Government, and by statute 
> is second in line for the Presidency should 
> fatal tragedy overcome the President and Vice 
> President.   Were he not Speaker likely even 
> less attention would have been focused upon 
> this profitable quasi-secret deal.   Certainly 
> there are worse, among Members of both 
> parties.   Meantime, the astute Speaker may be 
> the most affluent former wrestling coach in the country.
>Nickels and dimes by comparison, with no 
>monetary benefit to Appropriations Committee 
>Jerry Lewis (R-CA), is the $ 500,000.00 of 
>Federal taxpayers’ money earmarked to build a 
>swimming pool in Banning, California, in rapidly 
>growing Riverside County. On the one hand, this 
>misuse of non-Banning taxpayers’ money did not 
>peculiarly benefit Mr. Lewis. On the other hand, 
>it illustrates the Constitutional infirmity of 
>much earmarking: There is no Constitutional or 
>other Federal purpose in a Banning swimming 
>pool, just a give-away by a Member of Congress 
>of taxpayers’ money from across the country to 
>his constituents in Banning. (There are rumors 
>of Lewis financial monkey business - but only rumors.)
>The foregoing two incidents also dramatize the 
>decline in propriety of Congressional 
>appropriations sponsored by many Republicans in 
>Congress.   In the 80th Congress (1947 - 1948) 
>all of Riverside, Imperial and Orange Counties 
>comprised a single Congressional 
>district.   Population explosion now has 
>expanded that one district into almost ten.   It 
>was represented by the late John Phillips, who 
>lived in Banning.  “JP,” as he chose a few of us 
>to call him, honored this writer by appointing 
>him a House page.  JP was Chairman of the 
>Independent Offices Subcommittee 
>of  Appropriations  -  the 
>largest  appropriations jurisdiction outside 
>national defense. JP prided himself upon the 
>extent to which he successfully cut 
>appropriations requests from the Harry S. Truman 
>White House (although, a strong conservative, JP 
>and his wife did not dislike the Trumans and the 
>wives liked one another). The evil of earmarks 
>as we know them had not been invented.  If there 
>were sufficient JP equivalents in Congress today 
>there would be few, if any, earmarks.  Likewise, 
>if the likes of the late John Taber, of Auburn, 
>New York, were Chairman of the full 
>Appropriations Committee,  JP equivalents would 
>chair the subcommittees and the House, which 
>originates all appropriations bills, would be 
>reducing Federal expenditures - not 
>uncontrollably, and sometimes unethically, raising them.
>To too many Members of Congress it seems naively 
>restrictive to appropriate Federal taxpayers’ 
>money only under tight Constitutional 
>limitations, thus eliminating a huge number of 
>earmarks, or to appropriate money only when no 
>Senator or Representative might share in the related dollar largess.
>Many Members of Congress, of course, do not 
>participate or benefit. We shall learn if it 
>would be too much to hope that the Republicans 
>returning in the Second Session of the present 
>profligate Congress, perhaps with an eye on the 
>November elections, would return to at least a 
>modicum of fiscal responsibility.
>Democrats, in general, never have been much on 
>fiscal responsibility.  However, one must not be 
>surprised if a certain Senator, after 
>re-election in New York, reminds voters that her 
>husband was not, relatively speaking, a big 
>spender; denounces the Republicans for their 
>profligacy (while, of course, shielding 
>Democrats); and runs on a platform that includes 
>fiscal responsibility. The lady appears to be as 
>politically versatile as some Republicans are politically spendthrift.
>Meantime, we need more John Taber and John 
>Phillips Constitutional respect and pragmatic 
>parsimony. It is Federal taxpayers’ dollars with 
>which, or by means of which, some incumbents are 
>enriching themselves or, not unlike the Gracchi 
>of Rome, handing out other people’s goodies to their constituents.
>Marion Edwyn Harrison, Esq. is President of, and 
>Counsel to, the Free Congress Foundation.
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