Wednesday, June 15, 2005

New congressional scandals; DeLay offers his thoughts (are you on the edge of your seat?)

I just wanted to put up a quick post this morning -- we're in staff meetings and are a little tied up for the next few days. But even as we meet to discuss next steps in our campaign to hold DeLay accountable and clean up Congress, scandals involving our elected officials aren't subsiding.

The latest involve GOP Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California and Democratic Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania.

The LA Times reported over the weekend that Murtha's brother lobbied for ten defense firms which benefited from the appropriations bill Murtha helped write as the ranking Democrat on the Defense Appropriations subcomittee. This kind of "cashing in" is all too common in Washington -- on both sides of the aisle.

A more curious revelation was the news reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune that Rep. Cunningham sold his house to defense contractor Mitchell Wade for $1.675 million, and Wade sold the house a year later for a $700,000 loss to a company he owns.

This morning's Union-Tribune adds a wrinkle: the realtor (and family members) who brokered the transaction (and who received a healthy commission on the sale for the sale of another Cunningham house at $2.55 million) gave substantial campaign contributions to Cunningham over the years:

Realtor Elizabeth Todd and two family members have made 18 separate contributions totaling $11,500 to Cunningham's congressional campaign committee since 1997, according to records at the Federal Election Commission.

Meanwhile, a San Diego realtor put the transaction between Wade and Cunningham in this light:

Revelations of the deal have sparked outrage in Cunningham's district, which includes several North County communities, such as Del Mar, Carlsbad, Encinitas, San Marcos and Escondido. Much of the anger has focused on the question of how a house could sit on the market for eight months and sell at a loss of $700,000 when prices were sharply rising and many houses were receiving multiple offers above the asking price almost immediately upon being listed.

Said San Diego Realtor Christian Peter: "In November 2003, property values increased approximately 20 percent on a year-to-year basis in San Diego County. A $700,000 loss would be unheard of, and anyone who bought property in 2003 and held onto it for any period of time should have made a significant amount of profit."

So, you'd think that all this would bother our congressional leaders. Tom DeLay, from The Hill:

“Duke Cunningham is a hero,” DeLay said during a press briefing Tuesday. “He is an honorable man of high integrity.”


“I know that John Murtha is an honorable man,” DeLay said during the briefing, adding that he did not know any details of the [LA Times] article. “He is a man of great integrity.”

Whatever, Tom.

But, the real reason behind all these ethics stories and the hold up of the investigations is politics, DeLay says. Anne Kornblut of the New York Times has the latest back and forth on the Ethics Committee, including Rep.Louise Slaughter's seconding the call from Ethics Committee Chair Doc Hastings urging him to step down.


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