June 22, 2010

OCE released emails of “suspected pay-to-play scheme” involving def. contractors and Rep. Visclosky

By CREW Staff

Last month, in an interview with Parade Magazine, CREW's Melanie Sloan said:

The culture in Congress is that it’s acceptable to trade assistance for campaign contributions.

It's called "pay-to-play." That's the culture in DC when it comes to earmarks, lobbyists and members on key committees. But, it's rarely ever exposed. The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) released emails that appear to demonstrate how pay-to-play operates. And, the Washington Times exposes it:

Defense contractors who openly discussed a suspected pay-to-play scheme in e-mails released by congressional ethics investigators had ties to a powerful lobbying firm and won millions of dollars in federal earmarks after contributing to the campaign of an Indiana congressman.

Democratic Rep. Peter J. Visclosky requested a $2.5 million federal earmark for Nevada-based defense contractor Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) five days after a March 2007 fundraiser for which the company's owners and its political action committee contributed $18,800 to the congressman's campaign.

Similarly, Mr. Visclosky requested $2.5 million for defense firm 21st Century Systems — five days after its employees ponied up $17,050 for the same fundraiser. The firm's chief executive was awarded an "honorary seat" next to Mr. Visclosky at that fundraiser.

In both cases, company executives wrote e-mails linking campaign donations to earmarks Mr. Visclosky secured or special access to the congressman, a congressional ethics board concluded.


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