Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Congressman Blows Whistle on Congress

Jeff Flake is a Republican and a Congressman. But that hasn't stopped him from exposing the corrupt practices of the House of representatives. There are still some politicians in Washington that take seriously their oath of office to serve the people of America. Following is the eye opening speech given on the House floor yesterday:

Mr. FLAKE. Madam Speaker, yesterday I introduced a privileged resolution here in the House which asked the Ethics Committee to look into the relationship between campaign contributions and earmarks. This has been a problem, as we know, for a long time but it was brought to a head just recently when a lobby firm, a powerhouse lobby firm that had $14 million in revenue just last year, it was revealed that they were being investigated by the FBI.

This firm was quite prominent. It passed a lot of campaign contributions to Members here on Capitol Hill. In return, clients of this lobbying firm received in one defense appropriation bill $300 million. So it was quite lucrative for this firm obviously to do what it was doing.

Anyway, it was revealed that the FBI was investigating this firm, and within days, the firm completely imploded. It has dissolved. One week or so after it was revealed, it's gone, but the damage has been wrought to the dignity and decorum of this House. We sit here today all under suspicion because a firm spread so many campaign contributions around, and many earmarks were received. And no matter what the intent was or the motive here, the appearance of this does not reflect well on the dignity
and decorum of the House.

We have to remember that most of the earmarks sought by this firm, this firm that is now under investigation, are for for-profit entities, private businesses. These earmarks are essentially no-bid contracts. A Member of Congress will simply say, I want an earmark for this firm. Maybe it might be in his district, it might not, but it's a private, for-profit-making company, getting a Federal contract without scrutiny otherwise, with nothing and no other bids. Nobody else can bid on it.

Here, let me just step back for a second. One thing that is unbelievable here is we will be considering an omnibus appropriation bill, a $410 billion bill, tomorrow. We received a list of the earmarks that will be in that bill yesterday. So I think within 36 hours or so of receiving the list of 9,000 earmarks, we will be considering the bill.

Now, we have had rules in this House, and good rules, passed which stipulate that we have transparency, that we are supposed to be given notice of these earmarks well in advance. I would submit that 36 hours for 9,000 is hardly transparency, but even if it were, transparency has to be followed by accountability. Accountability means that somebody should be able to stand up and challenge any of these earmarks, to challenge whether or not a for-profit entity, a company in somebody's district, ought
to be getting a sole-source contract by a Member, with no scrutiny by other Members of this body. I cannot come to the floor tomorrow, nor can any other Member, and challenge any of these earmarks, to look at the relationship between earmarks, campaign contributions, or to simply say is this a good use of Federal spending.

Then we found that--add insult to injury, 9,000 earmarks with minimal notice--we found that the PMA Group, who lobbied for many earmarks in last year's defense bill the year before that, clients of the PMA Group received as many as up to a dozen earmarks in this omnibus appropriation bill that we'll be considering tomorrow. Let me say that again. A firm under investigation by Federal authorities, for what might be misused or mishandled campaign contributions to Members of Congress, clients of
that firm are receiving earmarks in the appropriation bill that we'll be passing tomorrow, and not one Member here has the ability to go in and challenge a single one of those earmarks. It's take-it-or-leave-it on the whole bill, one vote at the end, take-it-or-leave-it, no ability to challenge. That simply isn't right, Madam Speaker. That's not right.

That's why we need the Ethics Committee to take a look at this. We know from press reports that somebody's taking a look at it. Politico reported on February 12 that, ``Several sources said FBI agents have spent months laying the groundwork for their current investigation, including conducting research on earmarks and campaign contributions.''

Now, we may not want to look at it, but the Justice Department is. We have the obligation here to uphold the dignity and decorum of the House. Our standard should not be investigations, convictions, and imprisonment. It ought to be what upholds the dignity of the House. Let's pass this resolution.

Obama State of Union Speech Transcript

It was an excellent State of the Union Speech. Read the complete transcript. Excerpt below:

I know that for many Americans watching right now, the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others. And rightly so. If you haven't been personally affected by this recession, you probably know someone who has - a friend; a neighbor; a member of your family. You don't need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis, because you live it every day. It's the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights. It's the job you thought you'd retire from but now have lost; the business you built your dreams upon that's now hanging by a thread; the college acceptance letter your child had to put back in the envelope. The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere.

But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this:

We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.

The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don't lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.

Now, if we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit that for too long, we have not always met these responsibilities -- as a government or as a people. I say this not to lay blame or look backwards, but because it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we'll be able to lift ourselves out of this predicament.

The fact is, our economy did not fall into decline overnight. Nor did all of our problems begin when the housing market collapsed or the stock market sank. We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before. The cost of health care eats up more and more of our savings each year, yet we keep delaying reform. Our children will compete for jobs in a global economy that too many of our schools do not prepare them for. And though all these challenges went unsolved, we still managed to spend more money and pile up more debt, both as individuals and through our government, than ever before.

In other words, we have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election. A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn't afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.

Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.

Now is the time to act boldly and wisely -- to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that's what I'd like to talk to you about tonight.

It's an agenda that begins with jobs.

As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by President's Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets. Not because I believe in bigger government -- I don't. Not because I'm not mindful of the massive debt we've inherited -- I am. I called for action because the failure to do so would have cost more jobs and caused more hardships. In fact, a failure to act would have worsened our long-term deficit by assuring weak economic growth for years. That's why I pushed for quick action. And tonight, I am grateful that this Congress delivered, and pleased to say that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law.

Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs.More than 90% of these jobs will be in the private sector -- jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges; constructing wind turbines and solar panels; laying broadband and expanding mass transit.

Because of this plan, there are teachers who can now keep their jobs and educate our kids. Health care professionals can continue caring for our sick. There are 57 police officers who are still on the streets of Minneapolis tonight because this plan prevented the layoffs their department was about to make.

Because of this plan, 95% of the working households in America will receive a tax cut -- a tax cut that you will see in your paychecks beginning on April 1st.

Because of this plan, families who are struggling to pay tuition costs will receive a $2,500 tax credit for all four years of college. And Americans who have lost their jobs in this recession will be able to receive extended unemployment benefits and continued health care coverage to help them weather this storm.

I know there are some in this chamber and watching at home who are skeptical of whether this plan will work. I understand that skepticism. Here in Washington, we've all seen how quickly good intentions can turn into broken promises and wasteful spending. And with a plan of this scale comes enormous responsibility to get it right.

That is why I have asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort -- because nobody messes with Joe. I have told each member of my Cabinet as well as mayors and governors across the country that they will be held accountable by me and the American people for every dollar they spend. I have appointed a proven and aggressive Inspector General to ferret out any and all cases of waste and fraud. And we have created a new website called so that every American can find out how and where their money is being spent.

So the recovery plan we passed is the first step in getting our economy back on track. But it is just the first step. Because even if we manage this plan flawlessly, there will be no real recovery unless we clean up the credit crisis that has severely weakened our financial system.

I want to speak plainly and candidly about this issue tonight, because every American should know that it directly affects you and your family's well-being. You should also know that the money you've deposited in banks across the country is safe; your insurance is secure; and you can rely on the continued operation of our financial system. That is not the source of concern.

The concern is that if we do not re-start lending in this country, our recovery will be choked off before it even begins.