Friday, April 10, 2009

No More Dicks in Congress

I gotta tell ya, when I decided to run for Congress last year I had no idea how our sainted Congressman, Norm Dicks, is beloved around the country - - from our little corner of the Pacific Northwest all the way to, well, take Florida, for instance. Who could have guessed that our humble, folksy, member of Congress has worked his way into the hearts of common, work-a-day guys in Florida - - working people like Amelia Island, Ritz-Carlton sommelier John Pugliese. Amelia Island is in the Atlantic off the coast of Florida near Jacksonville. For those of us who don’t dine regularly at the Ritz-Carlton, a sommelier is a French term for a waiter who is in charge of wines. Now waiters in Florida, waiters at the Ritz-Carlton must make a lot of money - - further proof that I may have chosen the wrong profession - - because since the summer of 2005, John Pugliese has given $77,000 to members of the Senate and the House. Or how about Jon C. Walker, another Floridian, who works at both the Ritz-Carlton and the Amelia Island Golf Club. He must put in a lot of overtime at both jobs. At any rate, he still had time to read up on, and, like Pugliese, evidently really come to appreciate the hard work of our Norm. On 25 May 2006, Pugliese and Walker donated $4,000 to Dicks campaign. Not long after those donations our Norm told the Seattle Times, “People, if they want to support me, they support me,” while a spokesman for Dicks, George Behan, said he found nothing suspicious about the donation.

Suspicious? Why would anyone find $77,000 in donations from a Ritz-Carlton sommelier suspicious? All in a day’s donations for our Norm. As it turns out, the FBI and Justice Department prosecutors actually finds those donations suspicious. It seems that the powerhouse lobbying firm PMA Group, which is closing its doors next week, is under suspicion for having used “straw campaign contributors” - - sirs Walker and Pugliese for instance, to funnel large sums of illegal cash to members of Congress - - a felony that could carry a minimum sentence of five years. Senator Patty Murray, who also accepted cash from the Florida Two and Dicks will probably walk away unscathed but their involvement in this shady business is a timely reminder about the corrupt nature of the whole campaign finance system.

As I mentioned repeatedly during the campaign and as the Seattle Times David Heath wrote recently, “Congressman Norm Dicks has never been shy about accepting campaign donations from favor seekers.” Between 2001 and 2007 Norm Dicks landed $434,800 in campaign contributions just from military-related contractors and many PMA clients -- businesses for which he then put earmarks in the federal budget. The list of companies involved in this disgusting legalized bribery reads like a who’s who of the military-industrial-congressional complex: Boeing, $49,500; Science Applications International, $27, 750; Lockheed Martin, $27,000; General Dynamics, $26,500; Raytheon, $21,000; Northrop Grumman, $20,000; and on and on and on.

This system of contributions for earmarks is a betrayal of the public trust. No member of Congress should ever accept a campaign contribution from an individual or a company or a lobbyist for a company that receives federal funding. That’s bribery and it should be illegal. We must establish a system of public financing to destroy the influence of dirty money.

I’m not sure why Democrats keep supporting our Norm who has been in Congress way to long. “We have to be loyal to what we believe,” the comedian Bill Mahar said recently, “not to people.”

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At 6:36 PM, Blogger Stash said...

So, no more dicks in the Congress, right? You seem pretty firm on that.

At 6:23 AM, Blogger Gary Murrell's What's Left said...

One has to be hard at times, to stand up and poke them right where it counts.


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