Visclosky Steps Aside as Chairman of Appropriations Subcommittee
Updated 4:30 p.m. ET
By Paul Kane
Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), under federal investigation for his ties to a lobbying firm whose clients received tens of millions of dollars in funds with his help, has stepped aside as chairman of an appropriations subcommittee that controls spending on projects for the Department of Energy.
"Throughout my career in Congress I have conducted myself with integrity out of respect for the people who I represent, the House of Representatives, and myself. I have represented the people of Northwest Indiana to the best of my ability and I have always abided by the law and adhered to the rules and code of ethics of the House. However, as a firm believer in the institution of the House of Representatives, I intend to ask Congressman Ed Pastor to temporarily handle the Fiscal Year 2010 Energy and Water Appropriations bill during committee and House consideration," Visclosky said in a statement issued today.
It's unclear when Visclosky, who has now lost his top aide as a result of the probe, would resume full control of the subcommittee.
The House is scheduled to spend the next two months going through many of the 12 appropriations measures, first in committee and then on the House floor. Visclosky's action at this point in the process helps Democrats avoid the awkward political moment that would present itself if he still were to oversee the energy and water bill, which funds more than $30 billion in projects, including an average of $1.4 billion in special projects known as earmarks.
Federal investigators are probing Visclosky's ties to the now shuttered Crystal City firm PMA Group, where his former chief of staff served as a top lobbyist for the previous five years. Visclosky earmarked, on his own, more than $34 million worth of projects to PMA clients in the fiscal 2008 and 2009 spending bills, according to an analysis by Taxpayers for Common Sense. Visclosky disclosed last week that his office and members of his staff has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury looking for documents related to PMA.
Over the last 12 years he has been the second largest recipient of campaign contributions from PMA's political action committee, its employees and its clients, more than $1.3 million in donations, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The largest recipient of donations, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), has not been subpoenaed in the investigation but defense contractors with close ties to the lawmaker, who chairs the Defense subcommittee on appropriations, have come under scrutiny.
And as the investigation intensifies, Visclosky's chief of staff, Charles Brimmer, has resigned from the office, according to Roll Call. Following House rules, Brimmer has officially informed the chamber that he was the recipient of one of last week's subpoenas.
June 2, 2009; 1:42 PM ET
Categories: Ethics and Rules
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