Morning Business: Earmark Control

Posted April 21, 2009 at 6:42pm

Several junior House Democrats will propose legislation today that would prohibit Members of Congress from accepting campaign contributions from anyone linked to the Members’ earmark requests.

[IMGCAP(1)]Second-term Reps. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) and Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and freshman Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) are co-sponsoring the bill, which would prohibit a Member from taking contributions not only from a company that is an earmark recipient, but also the company’s employees and lobbyists.

The three Members are among the handful of Democrats who have supported a resolution repeatedly offered by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to require the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to investigate links between campaign donations and earmarks.

Flake’s resolution rose out of ongoing news stories about an FBI investigation of potentially improper campaign donations from the PMA Group, the now-defunct lobbying firm that steered millions of dollars worth of campaign cash to key Members and received millions of dollars worth of earmarks for the firm’s clients.

Hodes spokesman Mark Bergman said Hodes has had “a long-standing policy in his personal office— not to accept donations from entities he is seeking earmarks for, and “he believes that while this is currently legal and permissible, Congress should be held to a higher standard.—

The House Democratic leadership has been seeking a response to Flake’s resolutions, but it does not appear that the Hodes/Giffords/Perriello bill has been endorsed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) or other Democratic leaders.

Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said, “We have not yet seen the proposal, and we would need to review it. We continue to look at opportunities to build on the landmark reforms enacted in the last Congress — greater transparency of earmarks, additional lobbying disclosures, including reporting of bundled campaign contributions, and the creation of an outside ethics review panel.—

Flake also introduced legislation in January that would change House rules to require that Members seeking an earmark would have to certify that they had no campaign contributions from the recipient.