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The land, some of which sits directly across from Lewis' home, is part of a scenic canyon in one of Redlands' wealthiest neighborhoods. Keeping the land free of development helps ensure property values remain high.
The Dangermonds donated the land in September 2001, about six months after buying it. The transaction, handled through a company owned by the couple, was contingent on the city agreeing to keep the property as open space or parkland.
Less than a year after the donation, ESRI was tapped by the Pentagon's National Imagery and Mapping Agency to help provide software for a mapping toolkit.
In 2004, ESRI got at least $31.4 million for four federal projects, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, including $14.4 million for the Commercial Joint Mapping Toolkit. In the 2005 defense spending bill the company got $24 million for various projects.
As federal money flowed into their company, the Dangermonds donated generously to Lewis. In the last three election cycles, they have given more than $23,000 to the congressman and his political action committee, according to Federal Election Commission records.
The loan was still listed as outstanding on the financial disclosure report Cantwell filed in May. The senator's office said Dotzauer continues to advise informally Cantwell's campaign as an unpaid adviser.
Since last fall, Cantwell has helped persuade Senate appropriators to set aside $9.6 million _ known as "earmarks" in congressional parlance _ for a dam project benefiting two clients of Dotzauer's firm and $2 million more for the biotechnology company Inologic also represented by his firm.
More than a year after Randy "Duke" Cunningham's tale of greed and corruption exploded in the news, Congress still hasn't passed ethics or lobbying reform legislation.
And it's highly unlikely it will, a congressional watchdog said this week.
"The general belief is they will not act on any kind of reform, and certainly not any meaningful reform," said Meredith McGehee, policy director for the nonpartisan Washington-based Campaign Legal Center which focuses on campaign finance.
And the earmarking business is booming. According to the watchdog group, the amount of so-called "pork barrel" spending increased by 6.2 percent in the current fiscal year over 2005, reaching $29 billion. The group reports that federal pork barrel spending has more than doubled since 1999.
The Campaign Legal Center's McGehee was scornful of both versions.
"The bill passed by the Senate was weak and the bill passed by the House was pathetic," McGehee said.
Whatever happens, McGehee said, no bill will forever end attempts to rig the system for personal or electoral gain.
"It's scandalous," said Democrat Francine Busby. "It undermines people's trust in government when they see congressmen being prosecuted in the courts and yet Congress does nothing to control its own members."
The House changed its rules Thursday to require lawmakers to identify the special projects they slip into legislation, a modest step toward restoring the reputation of Congress in a year of ethical lapses and scandals involving relations with lobbyists.
The change, in effect only through year's end, is aimed at curtailing a practice whereby lawmakers anonymously insert "earmarks" -- narrowly tailored spending that often helps a specific company or project in their district -- into bills.
The rules change "will do little more than to get Republicans through the November elections," said Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York, top Democrat on the House Rules Committee.
GOP Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a leading critic of special interest spending, said: "I'm under no illusion that this legislation, which deals only with the issue of transparency, will solve the problem of earmarking. But this bill does represent an important first step."