porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: The Appropriations Committees — cesspits of corruption?

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, the number-two Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, is under investigation by the Justice Department for his ties to an Alaska-based oil services company, according to media reports. And he’s not alone: Three other congressional appropriators are facing federal investigations, too.

House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) says another inquiry is complicating a favorite pastime for committee members: earmarking money for special projects that benefit constituents and, all too often, their donors. . . .

All of this has some on Capitol Hill asking if there is something endemic to the culture of the appropriations committees, in both the House and the Senate. Is the scent of money too tempting, too corrupting? Is appropriation’s long history of backroom deal-making no longer acceptable in this more transparent era?

Appropriators don’t think so, of course, and they say that they don’t believe there are any “cultural” problems specific to the committees.

I beg to differ. There’s obviously a culture of entitlement, and impunity there. It’s apparent in many ways, not least the offense taken when people want information about what’s going on. Though to be fair, the problem certainly isn’t limited to the Appropriations Committees, as episodes like William Jefferson’s illustrate.