- The Washington Times - Friday, December 15, 2006

Rep. Alan Mollohan, West Virginia Democrat, is the next embarrassment for Nancy Pelosi’s “most ethical Congress in history.” Mr. Mollohan is slated to chair the appropriations panel which oversees the budget of the Justice Department, including the FBI. But the FBI is currently investigating him for possible appropriations and ethical improprieties.

The 11-term lawmaker stepped down as ranking Democrat on the House Ethics Committee in early 2006 pending the outcome of the investigation. There are two controversies here: one concerning a suspicious surge in Mr. Mollohan’s personal wealth in connection with real estate investments — his net worth surged from the low-to-mid six figures in 1999 to at least $6.8 million and as much as $25 million by 2005 — while he was in office; and one concerning $250 million in federal appropriations to five nonprofit organizations that Mr. Mollohan himself set up and which employ his friends and some of his campaign contributors.

Both are troubling for their own reasons. In one case, the West Virginia lawmaker purchased real estate with a longtime friend who is also a recipient of money from his earmarks. It took a complaint by a conservative watchdog, the National Legal and Policy Center, before Mr. Mollohan properly reported his net worth, including substantially undervalued assets, undisclosed real estate holdings and interests in companies to the federal government.

Then there is the earmarking, which seemingly shows that cronyism has been Mr. Mollohan’s modus operandi for years. When the New York Times reported the story in April, it characterized the arrangement as “a cozy, cross-pollinated network” in which Mollohan-recruited executives “provide him with steady campaign contributions and positive publicity in their newsletters.” One executive resigned after the revelation of his taxpayer-funded salary of $500,000. Highly compensated jobs and lavish taxpayer funded earmarks for their foundations were Mr. Mollohan’s backscratching for friends. They scratched his back with re-election money.

Mrs. Pelosi: What was that about the “culture of corruption”?

After the failed bids to install the Abscam-plagued Rep. Jack Murtha as majority leader and the previously impeached Rep. Alcee Hastings as Intelligence Committee chairman, we’d have thought that Democrats learned the lesson. But now Mrs. Pelosi wants to give a key appropriations slot to a lawmaker who can’t keep his friends’ hands off huge sums of tax dollars.

That’s quite a turn for the “most ethical Congress in history.”

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