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CREW Files Justice and Senate Ethics Committee Complaints Against Sen. Mary Landrieu [View All]

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gilpo Donating Member (601 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-31-08 11:17 AM
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CREW Files Justice and Senate Ethics Committee Complaints Against Sen. Mary Landrieu
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http://www.citizensforethics.org/node/30690

8 Jan 2008 // Washington, D.C. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) today sent a complaint to the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District for Louisiana and the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, asking for an investigation into whether Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) violated federal bribery law by including a $2 million earmark for Voyager Expanded Learning in a bill a mere four days after receiving $30,000 in campaign contributions from company executives and their relatives. CREW also asked the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate the matter.

Randy Best, a top Republican donor and Bush pioneer, founded Voyager, an educational products company and rather than selling the companys reading program to school districts, hired lobbyists to obtain earmarks for it. Although the House had appropriated $1 million for his program for the D.C. public schools, Best still needed a Senate sponsor. A lobbyist arranged a meeting with Sen. Landrieu, the chair of the Appropriations subcommittee responsible for the District of Columbia, to press for an earmark. Shortly after Sen. Landrieu met with Best, a member of Sen. Landrieus staff asked him to hold a fundraiser for her and he agreed. After the fundraiser, she received $30,000 in campaign contributions from individuals associated with the company -- donors who had never before contributed to her. Four days after she received the money, she inserted an earmark into a D.C. appropriations bill, giving D.C. schools $2 million to buy Bests reading program, which was unproven and had not been requested by the school system.

Federal law prohibits public officials from directly or indirectly demanding, seeking, receiving, accepting, or agreeing to receive or accept anything of value in return for being influenced in the performance of an official act. Accepting a contribution to a political campaign can constitute a bribe if a quid pro quo can be demonstrated.

Given that Sen. Landrieu asked Best to hold a fundraiser for her, which he did, and then inserted the Voyager earmark only four days after receiving contributions from individuals connected with the company, it certainly appears she traded the earmark for the contributions in violation of federal criminal law. Sen. Landrieu also may have violated the Senate rule prohibiting improper conduct which reflects upon the Senate.

Melanie Sloan, CREWs executive director, said today, Senator Landrieu appears to have traded a $2 million earmark for $30,000 in campaign contributions. It was a win-win situation for Best and Senator Landrieu, but a lose-lose for the taxpayers and D.C. school children. Sloan continued, the Department of Justice and the Senate Ethics Committee should look into this matter immediately. Members of Congress need to understand that trading earmarks for campaign funds is illegal -- no exceptions.

UPDATE:

Melanie Sloan, CREWs executive director, responds to Senator Landrieus release today on CREWs complaints (Sen. Landrieu's release is posted to the right):

Sen. Landrieus response to CREWs Department of Justice and Ethics Committee complaints fails to address the key allegation: that she inserted an earmark in return for campaign contributions. According to a document just provided by Sen. Landrieu, the District of Columbia apparently asked the senator on April 25, 2001 to include an earmark for Voyager in the D.C. appropriations bill. Nevertheless, by September 24, 2001, when a House committee included a $1 million earmark for Voyager, the company still had not attracted a Senate sponsor. Sen. Landrieu has not explained why she didnt follow through on the Districts request until November 6, 2001, four days after Mr. Best and his associates contributed $30,000 to the senators campaign.

***

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions.

For more information, please visit www.citizensforethics.org or contact Naomi Seligman Steiner at 202.408.5565/[email protected].

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