Despite promises by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) of rigorous enforcement of House ethics rules, the top staff position on the Ethics Committee stayed vacant for eight months. Now the Committee has hired Blake Chisam (photo at right), who was already a staffer for Ethics Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and a member of the search committee that selected him.
Isabel Vincent of the New York Post reported yesterday:
According to his latest disclosure statements, Chisam owes up to $300,000 in student loans and filed for bankruptcy in 2000 in Pennsylvania and 2001 in Georgia.
The Post continued:
Ken Boehm, of the watchdog National Legal and Policy Center was quick to rip the eyebrow-raising pick.
“No wonder the House Ethics Committee is considered something of a joke,” Boehm said. “Despite having to investigate…a powerful congressman like Charlie Rangel, [it] goes many months without a staff director and then picks a partisan staffer of its chairwoman.”
Chisam’s title will be Staff Director/General Counsel. One seemingly pressing matter for the Committee is an investigation of Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY).
In late 2008, NLPC exposed three Rangel scandals: 1) evasion of taxes on rental income on his Dominican Republic beach house; 2) cheating on DC property taxes by improperly claiming a homestead exemption; and 3) leading a Citigroup-funded junket to the Caribbean in violation of House Rules.
It was Rangel who filed an ethics Complaint against himself, and since that time, has predicted that the Committee will exonerate him. We have no doubt he is right.
Meanwhile, Bennett Roth of CQ Politics reported on April 30:
House Democratic leaders face new pressure from four watchdog groups usually allied with them to open an investigation into the ties between three powerful Democrats and the now-defunct lobbying firm The PMA Group.
Democracy 21, Common Cause, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG on Thursday called on the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to probe the relationship PMA had with Democratic Reps. John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, Peter J. Visclosky of Indiana and James P. Moran of Virginia. The lawmakers secured lucrative earmarks for defense contractors represented by The PMA Group and received political donations from family members of the lobbying firm’s founder.
It will be interesting to see whether a real investigation of Murtha is any more likely than one of Rangel.
Speaking of Murtha, his earmark-funded empire is really becoming a family affair.
David D. Kirkpatrick reported in the New York Times on May 2 that the Marine Corps has named his nephew, Col. Brian Murtha, as one of its lobbyists on Capitol Hill.
As Kirkpatrick reported:
The congressman earmarked millions of federal dollars to an institution in his district, St. Vincent College, while the Rev. John F. Murtha, his cousin, was its president. He has directed millions more in earmarks to clients of a firm, KSA Consulting, where until about three years ago his younger brother, Robert Murtha, known as Kit, worked as a lobbyist.
Colonel Murtha is one of Kit Murtha’s sons. Another son, also named Robert Murtha, is a former Marine with a master’s degree in engineering. He previously worked for two military contractors who, seeking earmarks, hired a lobbyist with close ties to Representative Murtha.
Over the last three years, the younger Robert Murtha has operated Murtech Inc., a small contractor in Glen Burnie, Md., that runs a warehouse and offers engineering services. It has received more than $3.5 million in military contracts over the last three years, not including subcontracts through other companies.
He is also a founder of another company, Ocean Energy Systems Inc., which is seeking federal financing to support its research into the generation of power from the motion of waves.