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W.Va. Firms Footed Mollohan Trip

Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), his wife and two top aides took a five-day trip to Spain in June 2004 that was paid for by a group of government contractors for whom Mollohan steered tens of millions of dollars in earmarked funds, according to travel records and other documents.

The trip sponsor listed on travel disclosure forms is the “West Virginia (WV)-01 Trade Delegation,” which Mollohan’s office described as an “ad hoc group” of 19 government contractors and West Virginia-based nonprofits that came together to pay for the trip. The total cost of the trip for Mollohan, his wife and aides was $7,874.

Mollohan’s trip to Spain was arranged by the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation, a nonprofit organization Mollohan created back in 1990. Mollohan has helped steer more than $30 million in federal funds to the foundation as part of his overall effort to revitalize West Virginia’s economy.

In a statement, Mollohan said his trip to Spain was proper and in accordance with House ethics regulations.

“In June 2004, I led a delegation of West Virginia high-tech companies to Bilbao, Spain to pursue collaborative opportunities with the high-tech businesses and associations in that region,” Mollohan said in the statement. “The trade mission was fully disclosed in complete compliance with all House rules and guidelines.”

Mollohan added, “Even more, it was totally in line with my responsibility to generate economic development in my district. Who would I take on a trade delegation? Companies from New Mexico? I will never apologize for working to promote West Virginia companies and the West Virginia jobs they create.”

Mollohan has been under fire during the past month for various financial dealings, including those with a network of five nonprofit organizations he set up or exerts influence over, including the high-tech foundation. Mollohan had funneled more than $250 million in federal funds to these organizations. Officials with these nonprofit groups, in turn, donated nearly $400,000 to his re-election campaigns from 1997 to this year, according to The New York Times.

Questions about Mollohan’s relationship with these organizations were first raised in a complaint filed with the Justice Department by the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative watchdog group, back in late February.

The NLPC also alleged that Mollohan has failed to accurately disclose his personal wealth in annual reports. Mollohan’s net worth soared from 2000 to 2004, which he has stated was the result of canny investments in real estate and his inheritance of assets from his father, who also served in the House.

The FBI is preparing to issue “informational subpoenas” to at least three of the nonprofits with ties to the West Virginia Democrat, including one run by a former Mollohan aide who has invested in real estate deals with the Congressman and his wife, according to media reports.

Mollohan — who relinquished his post as ranking member on the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct recently due to the controversy — has hired Squier Knapp Dunn, a Democratic media firm, to help with his image.

The firm, which has been paid $30,000 so far from Mollohan’s re-election campaign, was hired before the onslaught of negative stories about the West Virginian began appearing earlier this month, said Anita Dunn, one the firm’s partners.

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