Perlmutter spokesperson Leslie Oliver asked The Colorado Independent to run a correction, as she described the line Perlmutter draws when it comes to the business that mixes earmarks and campaign donations.
“We took no campaign money from IHS,” Oliver said. “But yes, we received campaign contributions from PMA’s political action committee.”
IHS won an extra million dollars thanks to Perlmutter and other members of the Colorado delegation who voted for the IHS earmark, a group that included Wayne Allard, Ken Salazar and Tom Tancredo.
According to a Congressional Quarterly study of a Taxpayers for Common Sense database, IHS paid PMA to lobby Colorado members of Congress to secure defense contracts.
The FBI investigation of PMA turns on suspicion that the company acted as a conduit for campaign cash, making sure money got to the right people when relevant federal appropriations were being considered and decided upon.
Is accepting campaign donations from the lobbying firm representing a company ultimately any less suspect than taking campaign donations from the companies themselves?
Many observers see the practice as merely a “workaround” that puts merely puts one level of distance between the companies and the lawmakers for the sake of appearances.
“That’s a question for investigators to decide,” says Oliver. “We’ve given the money to the Boys and Girls Club.”
She said Tancredo, Allard and Salazar came to Perlmutter and asked him to consider the earmark for IHS.
“We then met with IHS,” she said. “What IHS does is catalog all F-18 components. Without being able to catalog those, mechanics can’t provide important services to the planes. We thought it was a clearly important national security project that would also provide jobs in Colorado.”
Pork is an old issue, a reality of the political scene and something at least one prominent senator has defended.
Rolling Stone dubbed Hillary Clinton the “Queen of Pork” last summer as news of her profligate earmarking as a senator began to break far and wide. The news was no secret inside the beltway and it didn’t significantly affect her fading presidential campaign.
Although she danced around the issue, ultimately Clinton made no bones about what she was up to. “Senator Clinton has asked the Appropriations Committee to support defense projects for New York firms and institutions which will promote our national security,” her spokesman told members of the media pressing the issue. “And she is pleased that the conference committee agreed in providing funding for these vital projects.”
There’s nothing illegal nor unusual about campaign contributors reaping benefits from earmarks. It remains for now an ethical question, as opposed to a legal question.
That’s part of the reason Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) submitted a resolution this week to establish an ethics committee that would investigate the relationship between earmarks and campaign contributions, a resolution that, whatever its intent, amounted from the beginning to nothing but a scold. Last month, Flake introduced H. Res. 85 to investigate the connection between campaign funding and earmarks — the bill remains in committee.
As Congressional Quarterly put it: “All involved knew in advance that the measure had virtually no chance of success; minority parties generally use such resolutions as a way to underscore a point or try to embarrass the party in power.”
The resolution was killed by House Democrats who took thousands of dollars in campaign money from PMA and who secured millions in earmarks for PMA clients.