The Defense appropriation bill has gone through a long journey for the last few month, with many uphill battles due to partisan politics. But both parties have something in common – corruption. With the sudden death last week of Pennsylvania Congressman and Appropriations defense subcommittee chair John Murtha, the stakes have risen even higher. Washington state Rep. Norm Dicks is likely to take over the chairmanship, which oversees $650 billion in fiscal 2010 – half of the total discretionary budget controlled by the House Appropriations Committee.
While he represents a district next to major Pentagon contractor Boeing, which stands to continue receiving funding, Dicks comes with his own baggage:
Dicks, Murtha and James Moran Jr., a Virginia Democrat also on the panel, were investigated last year by the Office of Congressional Ethics over $137 million in contracts they directed to defense companies that had hired a lobbying firm, PMA Group, founded by a former subcommittee staffer.
The ethics office dropped the probe in December without taking action. The House ethics committee is conducting its own investigation, although the ethics office recommended that review be dropped, too.
Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan budget watchdog group, said Murtha was almost without peer in the volume of earmarks he gave out.
While Dicks isn’t in the same league, Ellis said, he’s known for channeling plenty of earmarks back to his district.
“I don’t really foresee a huge change” under Dicks’ leadership, Ellis said.
Meanwhile, Republicans are also in bed with lobbyists:
On one side of the coin, Republicans give away billions to the “defense” industry and appoint lobbyists to head government agencies and are just blatantly corrupt. And when you flip it over, Democrats…well, give away billions to the “defense” industry and appoint lobbyists to head government agencies and are just blatantly corrupt…In the words of Bill Maher, “We have a center-right party and a crazy party. Over the last 30 years, the Democrats have moved to the right, and the Republicans have moved into a mental hospital.”
Also, the ongoing shenanigansof Xe Services (formerly known as Blackwater) don’t help the situation for either party.
Considering the growing opposition to the war in Afghanistan, the business of how taxpayer money is being used to fund defense clearly needs to be taken more seriously by both parties.