Reps. look to cut ties between earmarks, donations

Two reform-minded Democrats will introduce a bill Wednesday to address the growing controversy around the corruptive influence of earmarks and campaign donations from the companies that receive them.

Reps. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who are in their second terms, are co-sponsoring a measure that would prevent lawmakers from taking campaign contributions from entities for which they have requested earmarks, as well as the entities lobbyists and employees.

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The members are among more than two-dozen Democrats who have supported a resolution anti-earmark crusader Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) has offered seven times in the past two months. The measure would force the ethics committee to investigate the nexis between campaign contributions from embattled PMA Group lobbyists and its employees and the earmarks lawmakers’ requested for PMA clients.

PMA Group shut down after the FBI raided its Northern Virginia offices last year and is reportedly investigating fraudulent campaign donations from so-called straw donors. The firm had showered millions of dollars in campaign donations on members of Congress and its clients received hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks in return.

Democratic leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), have increased pressure in recent weeks on rank-and-file Democrats to oppose Flake’s resolution because they view it as a partisan stunt aimed at embarrassing prominent Democrats with close ties to PMA Group, including Reps. John Murtha (Pa.) and Peter Visclosky (Ind.).

Reps. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.), two Democrats that have supported the Flake resolutions, recently told The Hill, they are now wavering in their support.

Hodes’ spokesman Mark Bergman said his boss is trying to hold Congress to a higher standard.

“[Hodes] has a long standing policy not to accept campaign contributions for companies including their lobbyists and seniors executives on whose behalf he is requesting earmarks,” Bergman said. “He feels that while this is not current law, campaign finance law should be amended to make sure that members of Congress are not accepting campaign contributions from these organizations they are requesting earmarks for.”