Sunday, December 04, 2005

Federal Land Giveaway: Senator McCain's comments on Meet the Press provide context

Senator McCain was on Meet the Press this morning with Tim Russert (transcript). One of the topics was federal spending and lobbyists.

Tim Russert asks McCain if there will be indictments associated with the investigation into the Jack Abramoff investigations.

Senator McCain's response caught Porkopolis' attention because it described the influence lobbyists (Arizona Cotton Growers Association and Supiman) had in the federal land giveaway of the Western Cotton Research Laboratory in the recent Agriculture Appropriations bill (emphasis added):

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to corruption, and here's a headline from the Philadelphia Inquirer: "Lobbyist Jack Abramoff helped fuel conservative successes, but his dealings could lead to a powerful ethical fallout ... Christian Coalition founder Ralph Reed, antitax guru Grover Norquist, members of Congress, Administration officials, and a host of lobbyists have been drawn into Senate or Justice Department investigations of Abramoff's lobbying activities. ... The Abramoff story `is breathtaking in its reach,' [Sen. John] McCain said."
Do you expect indictments?

SEN. McCAIN: Oh, sure. And lots of them. This is--this town has become very corrupt. There's no doubt about it. And we need lobbying reform. We need to have some reform of lobbying. But the system here, where so much is done in the way of policy and money, in appropriations bills where line items are put in in secret, which nobody knows about or sees until after they're voted on, is the problem. That's the problem today. So therefore, someone who wants some money or a policy change hires a lobbyist who is well connected. They go to the appropriate subcommittee or committee, appropriations, and they write in the line item. That part has to be fixed, I think, as much as anything else.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator, you said you're going to follow the money, but are you also going to investigate which legislators may have taken money and used that to influence legislation, to write into law what you're suggesting...

SEN. McCAIN: Tim...

MR. RUSSERT: ...the behavior of senators, your colleagues? Are you going to investigate them?

SEN. McCAIN: The--I will not, because I'm a chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee. This was brought to our--this whole thing started--was brought to us--attention by some disgruntled tribal council members in a small tribe in Louisiana, and we took it as far as we thought was our responsibility, which is where the money ends up. I'm not as--we are responsible for Indian affairs. We have an Ethics Committee. We have a government--we have other committees of Congress, but we also have a very active media. And believe me...

MR. RUSSERT: Does the Ethics Committee work?

SEN. McCAIN: I don't think...

MR. RUSSERT: In all honesty?

SEN. McCAIN: I don't think the Ethics Committees are working very well. The latest Cunningham scandal was uncovered by the San Diego newspaper, not by anyone here...

From Le Templar's article 'Cotton growers gain research site for free', we see the McCain principle in action:


Now, the cotton fields are gone, and the related facilities are relics in an urban, industrial area. The Bush administration decided a couple of years ago to reorganize the cotton laboratory by combining it with a nearby water conservation laboratory and moving both to a new $28 million facility east of Maricopa in Pinal County.

Under that plan, the unneeded property would be sold at fair market value to help pay for the new project.

But when the cotton growers learned about the changes, they asked Arizona’s congressional delegation to help them bypass the normal procedures for obtaining government property.

Rep. Ed Pastor, a Phoenix Democrat whose district includes the cotton lab site, sponsored a bill in January to deed the lab site back to the original owners. The bill was co-sponsored by all House members from Arizona of both parties, including Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who has developed a national reputation for opposing all
types of government giveaways.

"You could say the cotton growers sacrificed their land for all of those years, and it’s only fair that they get it back," Pastor said.

The proposal eventually became part of an agriculture budget bill that Bush signed into law Nov. 10.


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