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Corruption in Congress

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posted on Nov, 27 2010 @ 04:44 AM

According to this website, 65% of our representatives in the House and Senate have committed acts that violate the public's trust and which run on sticky ground when it comes to their ethics. Misuse of campaign funds, earmarking in the millions (otherwise known has rewards), private purchases with public funds, false accounting, abuse of power for personal gains, vote purchasing, and misuse of funds are just some of the accusations brought against many of those sitting in office as we speak.

Of these accusations, very little, if any at all, could be proven in court, due to the bureaucracy and definitional vagueness of the system by which our politicians work in. One of the more ambiguous parts of these systems, and possibly the most damaging to the integrity of our elected leaders, is the Earmark. An earmark is typically an amount of congressional money, or funds, as designated by the lawmaker who requested for it, allocated to a certain 'project' within a certain bill, without the necessity to subject the proposed allocation to public scrutiny or even congressional review.

On a side note, an option (or addition) to direct money allocation from congressional funds is tax exemption, as said before, to any project or entity desired.

The money that is allocated is actually money that is supposed to be 'invested' into a specific agency in the government, so that the agency has the funds to support itself and its own projects, which are supposed to be designed for the benefit of the public. The money is quite literally subtracted from this large sum of agency money by lawmakers in order to pay the expense that is earmarked in a bill. And remember, congressional funds are accumulated from tax payer money.

Earmarks are anonymous. Any lawmaker could add an earmark to a bill, and if passed, no one would know for what purpose it was there, other than the assumption that this earmark had something to do with the bill.The potential monetary rewards of an earmark can be used to persuade a congressman that would have otherwise voted against the bill to in fact vote for the bill, as he who votes in favor of the bill is payed in return with the money allocated to the subject, the 'project'. As an example of an earmark, this is an excerpt from the website above (note that Paybacks is the accusation, FY=Fiscal Year):

Paybacks: Duncan Hunter has adopted a practice of rewarding donors with taxpayer money. According to his own earmark disclosures, Hunter's FY2010 requests include $26 Million for General Atomic Aeronatical Systems after Duncan received $25,700 in campaign donations (ref: Center for Responsive Politics). He simillarly earmarked $3 Million for TREX Enterprises after recept of $9350 in donations.

An earmark works by requesting money for something specific. If you requested money for NASA as a whole, that would be considered a budget increase. If you requested money for new chairs at NASA, that is an earmark. How this can be abused, is if the lawmaker who requested the earmark, owned a chair company, or had investments in a chair company, and you can see how this circle of corruption is formed. This is a very elementary overview of how the earmark is used and abused. When it comes to our lawmakers, you can be sure that earmarks are used on the post-graduate level, though many of you may speak out in rejection of that.

By reporting earmarks requested for certain individuals or organizations, such as schools, NPO's, companies, and even specific individuals, and by not requesting the earmark themselves, a lawmaker can detach themselves from the recipient of the earmark, effectively cutting off any substantial proof that the congressman/ woman had intentions to and benefited directly from the approval of an earmark. By withholding their own judgement and support, there is little to suggest that the lawmaker has anything to gain, and is only requesting the earmark on behalf of the subject or project. A simple get-around you might observe. By refusing to disclose which earmark the member supports, and by throwing up as many earmarks as possible, it makes it impossible to suppose which is directly supported by the member themselves. The only requirement is that they defend why the earmark ought to be approved, usually by taking the case in point and suggesting that the money or tax exemption is necessary for the project. This is a recent case:

Two Lawmakers Skirt Earmark Disclosure Rule, Says Watchdog By Nick Schwellenbach | April 28, 2010, 8:00 am Updated: 9/9/2010, 11:31 am |

A new earmarks guessing game has emerged as some lawmakers thwart the intent of House disclosure rules by keeping the public in the dark about the specific earmarks those lawmakers requested of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, according to a spending watchdog group. At least two Democratic members of Congress have posted on their websites over 300 earmarks sought by companies, individuals, non-profit groups, and universities, rather than identifying the specific earmarks each member is supporting. “It’s a cynical twist on the rule,” said Steve Ellis, vice president at the non-profit Taxpayers for Common Sense, which tracks earmarks.

House Appropriations Committee rules only require that members of the House report the earmarks for pet projects they submit to the committee. By posting the entire wish-list of earmark requests submitted by their constituents and others, Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio and Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick of Michigan are violating the spirit of the new disclosure rules, Ellis says.

Neither Fudge or Kilpatrick indicate on their congressional websites which earmarks they support and want approved by the House Appropriations Committee.

Fudge, like Kilpatrick, who was written about here about last week, “refuses to disclose which earmarks she actually requested. Instead she lists everything that was asked of her and lets people guess as to what she might have sought,” said Ellis.

When asked for comment, Fudge’s spokeswoman pointed the Center to a statement made to The Cleveland Plain Dealer, in which Fudge said her actions complied with House rules. All earmark requests were listed on the website to show “constituents the full range of appropriations requests received so they know the true depth of community need and the complexity of arriving at a funding decision,” according to Fudge’s statement to the newspaper.

Fudge is not a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, but Kilpatrick is.

“What makes Rep. Kilpatrick’s lack of transparency more surprising is that she is essentially flouting the rules established by the Chair of the Committee on which she sits,” said Ellis. Kilpatrick is the junior member of the House Appropriations Committee whose chairman is Rep. David Obey, D-Wis.

Kilpatrick said in a comment to the Center, “I have not broken any rules related to posting appropriations requests on my Web site. The policy of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee allows Members to list all requests received.”

In March, the House Appropriations Committee banned lawmakers from inserting earmarks that go to for-profit companies. The Democrats’ dramatic action was intended to stop members from steering federal money for no-bid contracts to companies and their executives who often make large campaign contributions. Earmarks accounted for nearly $16 billion in federal spending in the current fiscal year.

Earmark requests approved by the Appropriations Committee will be made known once the legislation containing the earmarks is reported out of the relevant subcommittee.

Earmarks can also be used reversibly, where the lawmaker or agency requests the earmark for their own project, then using the money or tax exemption to benefit the company or organization that would be directly involved in the project, or even those that have no real value to the proposed project.
Another way of avoiding disclosure is by changing the term 'earkmark' to 'budget increase' as what had been reported in this article:

Congress avoids earmark disclosure when funding its private jets
Posted by LegiStorm on Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Pentagon may not have wanted them but members of the House Appropriations Committee managed to fund two additional private jets partially for their own use, while also managing to avoid disclosure of these jets as legislative earmarks. Roll Call, which reported the funding, noted that the move came after lawmakers scolded the CEOs of auto companies for flying private jets to a congressional hearing, turning private planes into a symbol of Wall Street greed leading to the recession.

In all, the committee funded three Gulfstream jets for the Air Force's passenger air service, which transports VIPs such as members of Congress. The Air Force had asked for one of the planes. The extra two that were funded were specficially assigned for Washington, D.C. area units - the same ones responsible for transporting members of Congress. The two additional planes cost $132 million. Because the planes were for the Air Force's existing passenger service, the committee didn't consider the funds an earmark, leaving the requesters with anonymity. Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense told Roll Call that such a move - calling funds a program increase rather than an earmark - is part of a larger trend to avoid public disclosure.

So it is easy to see how an agency, department, or a company request for an earmark can be hidden under the term 'budget increase'. This type of vagueness in definition has the potential to allow certain individuals, and more often than not, certain companies, to make almost direct profits from a certain piece of legislation which would probably be in that entities best interest to begin with, as the earmark usually has to be relevant to the issue at hand. The appropriations and conference committees can even slide earmarks into the reports that accompany the final bill. Since the other lawmakers don't get the chance to amend these reports, they can't vote on these earmarks individually, and these allocations then are made into law without a general agreement made beforehand.

We see how fickle regulations can be when regulators are the ones benefiting from their own manipulation of the regulations which they are supposed to uphold. This sort of manipulation of fiscal allowance does not only get potentially unlawful bills to be passed, bills such as the latest Senate Bill S510 which makes it illegal to grow your own food, increasing business for large agricultural companies and hiking potential state, local, and federal revenues from fines and fees associated, but also allows massive amounts of money to be paid indirectly to those who voted in favor, as well as pay off the corporations who requested for the earmark and lobbied for the bill in the first place. Just note, 2009-2010 saw 16 Billion Dollars in approved earmarks alone. And to think that personal gain ends there, you'd be deceiving yourselves. For now though, we are focused on the threat of earmarks.

Earmarks promote the "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" type of attitude that is the ethical structure by which our legislators work today.This is legal corruption in the United States, because with loop holes such as these two presented, money can flow freely from one party to another without the legitimate scrutiny of a third. As long as everyone gets their due, no questions are asked. This my friends, is how the public gets duped, considerably.
edit on 27-11-2010 by asperetty because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 27 2010 @ 04:49 AM
reply to post by asperetty

I think most on ATS already know that..
There are few poor congress men..Their assets grow faster than their salary..
Been going on for decades.

posted on Nov, 27 2010 @ 05:01 AM
reply to post by backinblack

i've seen recently a few out of the most that desire to make a change rather than wait for one and talk about it until it comes or set aside all hope for any change at all, so i'm offering some info on where to look to first if you want to make some changes. IMO, total upheaval of our current congress is a must before any substantial change can be made. so i think by targeting congress, by publicly addressing in what ways congressman are corrupt, it makes it easier for people to get a move on-they'll no where to look to. of course, there are those who say "no shiznit congress is stealing my money" and go on living. well, no shiznit congressman are corrupt and siphoning off taxpayer money for their own profits, but how many people actually know by what means do they make their money? this is one way.

posted on Feb, 7 2012 @ 03:05 PM
This report from the Washington Post just released:

33 Members of Congress Earmarked $300 Million For Projects That Benefited Their Own Private Property

Read article>>

posted on Feb, 7 2012 @ 03:20 PM

Corruption in Congress


That the US congress is corrupted is really not new. In fact, I would brave the suggestion that at least some good portion of ATS members are here just for that single reason; their government has sold itself and is no longer trustworthy.

My personal approach is to keep this simple... the people that WE the people elect? They ignore WE the people... except for a few months when they need to be either reelected or elected for a first term. In between, We the people mean... nothing.

Nothing... as in, not a cold piss on an old tree stump.

But, just in case... in the event someone missed it, please do detail and run on. The more voices we have to regain our nation, the better.
edit on 7-2-2012 by redoubt because: typos and minor amendments

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