Flake to file 540 amendments on Defense bill

Rep. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGOP rushes to cut ties to Moore Flake on Moore defenders: 'This cannot be who we are' GOP senators raise concerns over tax plan MORE (R-Ariz.) is set to file 540 amendment requests with Democratic leaders to strike earmarks in the defense-spending bill.

Flake wants to eliminate all earmarks in the Defense appropriations bill directed to for-profit companies, some of which are under investigation or involved in federal government corruption probes.

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“There is very little to no vetting by the Appropriations Committee and a lot of these earmarks need some examining,” Flake said. “We’re in the middle of a federal investigation of earmarks and we’re acting like nothing has changed — it’s business as usual.”

Flake was referring to multiple federal investigations involving the misuse of earmarked money by defense contractors. The FBI raided the offices of PMA Group, a now-defunct lobbying firm with close ties to Reps. John Murtha (D-Pa.) and Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), earlier this year. Visclosky and his staff have since been subpoenaed. Despite the high-profile investigation, there are 70 earmarks in the defense bill directed to former PMA clients.

The bill also includes an earmark for ProLogic, a company that develops software for fighter jets, which is under investigation for allegedly diverting public money for its own private profit. Another company receiving earmarks in the bill, Argon ST, a Fairfax, Va.-based defense contractor, has provided information to the FBI for a criminal investigation in Florida involving allegations that three defense companies' executives skimmed money from earmarks for false work.

The Rules Committee will jettison most of Flake’s amendment requests, but he argues the flood of requests will make a statement that defense appropriators seem to be tone-deaf when it comes to eliminating or failing to vet dangerous earmarks.

Rules Committee spokesman Vince Morris said Flake’s paper drop sounded like overkill, especially considering that the panel allows Flake to target several earmarks in each spending bill.

“We love reading Flake amendments and Chair [Louise] Slaughter [D-N.Y.] actually gives the green light to many of them — more than any other member of Congress, in fact,” Morris said. “But 500 amendments sounds like overkill and I doubt we'd see 500 separate votes.”

Earlier Wednesday, the House voted to table a privileged resolution Flake offered that would force the ethics committee to launch an investigative subcommittee to look into the nexus between campaign contributions and earmarks. It was the ninth resolution of its kind Flake has offered this year. The previous measures, however, were more loosely worded, either calling for an investigation into the link between earmarks and contributions or calling on the ethics committee to investigate the matter and report its findings to the House.

The latest version highlighted the fact that the ethics committee has not formed an investigative subcommittee, something it usually does when it is seriously looking into allegations.

Even though the resolution failed, it garnered the support of 24 Democrats, including Visclosky and numerous vulnerable Democratic members. Rep. Don YoungDon YoungOvernight Energy: Perry takes heat for sexual assault comments | Clovis withdraws nomination for USDA post | Battle lines drawn on Arctic refuge drilling | Energy regulator back to full strength Senators spar over proposal to drill in Alaska wildlife refuge Rep. Pramila Jayapal takes sexist arrows and fights back MORE (R-Alaska), who has faced serious ethics scrutiny in recent years for earmarks, and Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), whose district is adjacent to Murtha’s, voted with the Democrats to table the measure.