U.S. Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski used his seniority and ties to powerful Democrats to secure $10 million in contracts for his nephews firms.
Earmarking the insertion of spending for specific pet projects into appropriations bills outside of the normal legislative process has long been a controversial practice in Washington.
Over the last decade, the annual cost of earmarks has more than tripled, reaching $64 billion in 2006, according to the Congressional Research Service.
The new Democratic majorities in the House and Senate pledged to reform the process. But some observers of Congress say the few reforms that have been passed will do little to curb earmarks. Lawmakers in both houses have already submitted their earmark requests to party leaders as they prepare to work on the 2008 budget.
The announcements have gone out by the committee chairs and ranking members: Get your earmark requests out, said Ronald Utt, a senior research fellow with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank. I dont think anything has changed. Congress doesnt seem to think theres much wrong with this.
In October, Mr. Kanjorski told The New York Times that his fellow Pennsylvania Democrat, John Murtha, a powerful member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, helped him get funding for eight to 10 projects, including contracts that went to Cornerstone Technologies LLC.
Murtha powerful ally
As a longtime senior member, and now chairman of the subcommittee, Mr. Murtha is able to insert earmarks into appropriations bills when House and Senate leaders meet in what is known as a conference committee to reconcile the separate appropriations bills approved in each chamber. The resulting conference reports and the added earmarks are then typically approved in both chambers with little debate or scrutiny.
When they come out, stories about democrats often come out right AFTER the elections, while stories about republicans come out right BEFORE the elections.
The Dems have a year to determine if this story will hurt their candidate, and then replace him.
The one guy that appears blameless is the scientist who was working on the technology. Amazingly all the congressman’s relatives got paid, but the scientist is out $600,000 .
It was just like the Three Stooges meet anthracite, said Penn State fuel-sciences professor Harold Schobert, who worked on a federal contract with the firm. These guys didnt know how to order chemicals. They didnt understand even the most fundamental aspects of how to conduct experiments.