An Indelible Stain on the Floor

This week finds House Democrats struggling to address their earmark problem, that perennial stain on the floor they thought they could finally scrub clean after all these years. What they had scrubbed along the way was their original promise to expose every special spending item, and now Republicans have their backs against the wall. It practically makes losing on Iraq war votes seem fun.

But there are other messes, too. I learned from listening to Rep. Mark Kirk's (R-Ill.) radio address over the weekend that there is an additional ethics matter the new majority has backed away from, and it isn't pretty.  Did you know that every year taxpayers send former Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) $125,000 in pension funds? Former Reps. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), Jim Traficant (D-Ohio) and Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) — all of whom are behind bars — are collecting $29,000, $40,000 and $64,000, respectively. Annually!
Kirk said he tried to pass legislation that would designate 21 felonies as crimes that would require the forfeiture of a member's pension. Kirk said the Democrats rejected his bill and passed a "watered-down version" that reduced that number of felonies to four. Let us recall that Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) has now been indicted, accused of 16 felonies. According to Kirk, Jefferson could earn between $40,000 and $50,000 annually from his congressional pension.
Just something to think about while the House tries to sort out the pork mess.