During the recent Democrat parliamentary hijinks stripping Republican amendments to the Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) appropriations bill, a very serious conflict of interest was brought to light on the House floor by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), a former 12th Circuit Appeals Court judge.
The Justice Department is reportedly in the midst of an ongoing investigation — nearing three years in length — of Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.V.). In a textbook example of conflict of interest, this powerful Democrat is the chairman of the CJS appropriations subcommittee that controls funding for the Justice Department.
“As a former judge and chief justice, we had ethics and conflicts of interest drilled into us constantly,” Gohmert said. “You should not have someone under investigation who gets to award money through appropriations to the people who are investigating them. I understand Chairman Mollohan’s position apparently is, ‘Oh, well I didn’t handle the FBI or the U.S. Attorneys.’ Good grief, he managed the budget for the Department of Justice for the people who control the FBI, the people who control the U.S. Attorneys. So to say, ‘I didn’t handle the budget for the actual individuals who were maybe investigating me, I just handle the budget for their supervisors,’ still doesn’t make the situation have less of a smell.”
The alleged illegal and unethical behavior ranges from funneling money through earmarks to large contributors to non-profit foundations with extensive ties to Mollohan and a former staffer to a sudden and very substantial reversal of fortune that has transformed Mollohan into a multi-millionaire.
Mollohan is alleged to have steered nearly $200 million to a network of nonprofit groups in West Virginia that are run by people who regularly contribute to Mollohan’s political action committee, Congressional campaigns and his family foundation. The contributors also include private companies that are recipients of contracts through these nonprofits.
But that’s only the beginning of Mollohan’s problems.
One senior congressional staffer familiar with House ethics rules told HUMAN EVENTS, “This is a guy who in the year 2000 — his financial disclosure statement reported almost $100,000 in credit card debt — now almost nobody would carry almost $100,000 in credit card debt given the interest rates unless they had some real money problems. That was the year 2000 and four years later he was worth, according to his financial disclosure statements, between 6 and 24 million dollars.”
Ironically, at the time, Mollohan also served as the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Ethics.
Mollohan’s staggering increase in net worth is due to a series of real estate deals he made with three individual partners who are each reported to be the beneficiaries of the earmark largesse made possible by his senior position on the Appropriations Committee.
There is also the question of an unsecured and undisclosed cash loan to Mollohan from a former Appropriations Committee staffer, Laura Kuhns, in the amount of $30,000. Kuhns has direct control over Mollohan’s non-profits and large amounts of earmark funding directly from Mollohan.
As the Wall Street Journal reported in April, 2006:
“Central to the Mollohan network is a former staffer, Laura Kuhns, who heads the nonprofit Vandalia Heritage Foundation. It is a historic-preservation group that is financed almost exclusively by earmarks backed by Mr. Mollohan. It paid her $102,000 in 2004. Vandalia is coordinating construction of the new building for the Institute for Scientific Research, or ISR, and Ms. Kuhns sits on its board and those of three other nonprofits that get funds via earmarks.
“She and her husband also are partners with Mr. Mollohan and his wife in five properties in Bald Head Island, N.C., valued in local real-estate records at a total of $2 million. The Mollohans recently bought a $1.45 million oceanfront home on the island, called the Peppervine House, which they rent out for $8,555 a week, next to the Kuhns’ house, known as Cape Fearless. These and other investments, including a stake in a nine-story luxury condominium complex in Washington, appear to have made the Mollohans wealthy.”
When this report along with a series of other front-page stories ran in major newspapers, Mollohan was forced to resign from the Ethics Committee. An unsecured, undisclosed loan in the amount of $30,000 is exactly the type of behavior that will send a member of Congress to prison even without the direct line between the earmarks, the recipient and the loan.
Two years ago, Mollohan claims to have recused himself from matters involving the Justice Department as it pertains to his subcommittee chairmanship. However, it’s really not clear what Mollohan did two years ago as the Democrat leadership has declined to make public the letter Mollohan sent to Rep. David Obey, Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations.
Mollohan and others have characterized the letter as a recusal from matters involving the FBI and U.S. Attorneys. Yet the recusal is an amorphous kind of thing because Mollohan has remained the chairman of the subcommittee. His name is on the CJS appropriations bill. He appoints the whole staff of the subcommittee, none of whom have recused themselves of anything. They work for him, they do his bidding.
Moreover, the committee isn’t just responsible for the budget.
“There is a great deal of oversight on the agency,” the Hill staff source said. “And when you’re in an agency, you have an authorizing committee and an appropriations subcommittee. Any cabinet secretary worth their salt and any other senior official in the department is a lot more worried about what the Appropriations Committee is asking for or insisting on than what their authorizing committees are asking for because the appropriators control of the money. Mollohan continues to control the Justice Department’s funding even as they continue to investigate allegations of his own criminal behavior and/or improper conduct.”
Regardless, Mollohan doesn’t appear to bother putting up a pretense any longer. More of that non-transparency transparency from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
With the trial of William Jefferson, the former Democrat Congressman from Louisiana finally underway, perhaps the Justice Department’s slowly grinding wheels will next turn to the Mollohan matter.
HUMAN EVENTS interns Teo Molin and Katy Gaines contributed to this article.