Naughty Judd Gregg made money off earmarks

Thanks to New Hampshire blogger Dean Barker I learned something new today about Senator Judd Gregg. According to the Associated Press,

President Barack Obama’s former nominee to become commerce secretary, Sen. Judd Gregg, steered taxpayer money to his home state’s redevelopment of a former Air Force base even as he and his brother engaged in real estate deals there, an Associated Press investigation found.

Gregg, R-N.H., personally has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in Cyrus Gregg’s office projects at the Pease International Tradeport, a Portsmouth business park built at the defunct Pease Air Force Base, once home to nuclear bombers. Judd Gregg has collected at least $240,017 to $651,801 from his investments there, Senate records show, while helping arrange at least $66 million in federal aid for the former base.

Sadly, this isn’t unprecedented or even the most egregious example of members of Congress profiting from earmarks. Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert sold real estate for nearly $2 million in profits after he secured federal earmarks to construct the Prairie Parkway near land he owned.

What looks corrupt in politics turns out to be legal more often than not, and that seems to be the case here. The AP says Senate ethics rules do not permit senators to direct earmarks to projects “solely” in order to benefit themselves or their family members financially, but of course Gregg could point to all kinds of benefits from redeveloping the former base.

“I am absolutely sure that in every way I’ve complied with the ethics rules of the Senate both literally and in their spirit relative to any investment that I’ve made anywhere,” Gregg told the AP. “These earmarks do not benefit me in any way, shape, manner financially, personally or in any other manner other than the fact that I’m a citizen of New Hampshire.”

Still, one wonders whether this story prompted Gregg to withdraw his nomination for Commerce Secretary. Whatever his reasons, we’re better off without him.

Members of Congress should stick to the usual form of legalized corruption and only seek earmarks that would personally profit their large campaign contributors.

No one raises ethical concerns about that behavior. As a bonus, donors who stand to gain from the earmarks may go the extra mile during the incumbent’s next tough campaign.

  • The Worst Abuse I Ever Encountered

    on a personal basis was a judge from Telluride County, CO.

    I was rear-ended by a Greyhound bus the week I moved to Colo. Springs, while visiting my cousins in Woodland Park.

    I had just purchased the pickup I was driving, and hadn’t bothered to go to my insurance agent and get a new insurance card for that vehicle.  I had an insurance card showing that I had insurance, only on another vehicle.

    The local cops wrote me up a ticket for “failure to have adequate proof of insurance”.  

    In the meantime, my new insurance card came in the mail to my new address, and I took it, my old insurance card, and a letter from my agent to court to explain that I did indeed have coverage, I just hadn’t received the new card yet.

    The judge simply asked me if I had the card with the truck I was driving listed at the time of the accident.  I said, “no”.  He then found me guilty and sentenced me to 80 hours of community service in lieu of a five hundred dollar fine, which I thought was a bit stiff, but that was that.

    So, I went to the community service office and paid them $100.00 only to get refered to a “Community Corrections

    Center” in downtown Colo. Springs.  I went to them, and they then told me they could not find me a “placement” without another $100.00 fee.  I told them I needed to go get the money.  After hitting the ATM, I went back and got assigned to Pikes Peak Community College.

    Now get this, as I am leaving, the judge who sentenced me pulls up in the parking lot of this “Community Corrections Center” and parks in a “staff” parking space.  I got very curious at that point, but then went and checked in with my assigned contact at Pikes Peak Community College.  He told me I would be assigned the task of mopping and buffing the floors.  I asked how many folks got assigned to do community service at the place.  He openly and candidly told me that the community college paid the “Community Corrections Center” $100 for each referal.

    After being told that, and seeing the judge park in a staff space, I went downtown to the City Clerks office and pulled up all I could find on this “Community Corrections Center”.  The info I photocopied included information that this was a “for profit private” enterprise, and that the judge who had sentenced me there was one of the owners.

    I took that to the Colo. Springs newspaper, and they had a field day with it.  Long story short, that is the only instance I am aware of where a sitting judge was failed to be re-elected without a challenger in place.  

    I felt quite vindicated, and found another placement that same week working with one of my bosses at an afterschool tutoring program for at risk youth.  

    In the course of working there, I managed to sweet talk a colleague who worked at Compaq computers into donating ten thousand dollars worth of gear for a computer lab. I talked the City of Colo Springs into springing for a room and paying for wiring it for ethernet and internet access, all at the Colo. Springs Community Center.  And then I spent months tutoring at risk youth on basic computer skills.

    I ended up spending something like 120 hours working on this project, which more than met my goal, I received an award from the Colo Springs School District, I received an award from the governor of the State of Colorado, and I had breakfast with the mayor of Colo. Springs, with the governor in attendance.

    I asked the Colo. Springs School District liason person if I should mention that I only did this project because I got ordered to do community service, and all my friends sitting there just turned to me and said, “Sshhhhhh”.

    And at the same time, the State was investigating founded abuses of power on the judge and looking at possible criminal charges for the stuff going on at the Community Corrections Center.  I don’t know what ever happened on that, but the guy did lose his job as a judge anyway.

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