This is a classic example of Washington protecting Washington, from the Washington Post:
The House ethics committee ruled Friday that seven lawmakers who steered hundreds of millions of dollars in largely no-bid contracts to clients of a lobbying firm had not violated any rules or laws by also collecting large campaign donations from those contractors.
In a 305-page report, the ethics committee declared that lawmakers are free to raise campaign money from the very companies they are benefiting so long as the deciding factors in granting those “earmarks” are “criteria independent” of the contributions. The report served as a blunt rejection of ethics watchdogs and a different group of congressional investigators, who have contended that in some instances the connection between donations and earmarks was so close that it had to be inappropriate.
“Simply because a member sponsors an earmark for an entity that also happens to be a campaign contributor does not, on these two facts alone, support a claim that a member’s actions are being influenced by campaign contributions,” the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct said in a unanimous statement.
OWTH! (Off WIth Their Heads!)
It’s that “unanimous” part that really tells you what is going on. Not a single ethics committee member of either party found any of their colleagues guilty of a thing. Somehow, the contributors in this case magically got the impression that if they donated campaign money to these congressmen, they would get earmarks in return, while the congressmen in question do the “who, us?” routine.
The good news is that the FBI and Justice Department are conducting an investigation of their own, and maybe they won’t go so easy on these and other congressmen.
That all said, we have created a political system that drives this kind of behavior. Until and unless the public is willing to support tough campaign finance laws, including perhaps public financing of campaigns, we’re going to see this kind of behavior.