Friday, April 07, 2006

WSJ reports Federal Prosecutors have opened investigation of Democratic Congressman Mollohan related to West Virginia Pork Projects

Appropriations, Local Ties And Now a Probe of a Legislator (Wall Street Journal, 4/7/2006, subscription only):

FAIRMONT, W.Va. -- On a mountaintop above old coal seams that once fueled West Virginia's economy, a gleaming steel-and-glass research center is taking shape, its winged design and 120-foot data tower visible for miles.

The $136 million building is being built with taxpayers' money for the Institute for Scientific Research, a nonprofit group launched by the local congressman, Democrat Alan Mollohan, and funded almost entirely through provisions he put into annual spending bills.

A 12-term congressman, Mr. Mollohan sits on the House Appropriations Committee, a panel that disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff dubbed the "favor factory." Working with fellow West Virginian Sen. Robert Byrd, Mr. Mollohan has steered at least $178 million to nonprofit groups in his district over the past five years using "earmarks"--special-interest provisions that are slipped into spending bills to direct money to projects.

The money has brought more than jobs and building projects to his district. It has formed and financed a tight-knit network of nonprofit institutions in West Virginia that are run by people who contribute regularly to Mr. Mollohan's campaigns, political-action committee and a family foundation. Som also run firmst that get contracts through these nonprofits, and one invests in real estate along-side Mr. Mollohan and his wife.

Such a pattern raises questions about whether the donations of deals might be a way beneficiaries of earmarks could influence the legislator's actions. Now, federal prosecutors have opened an investigation of Mr. Mollohan's finances and whether they were properly disclosed, according to people contacted in the inquiry...


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