Another Day, Another Democrat With Ethics Questions

Norm Dicks, come on down!

Last year, Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) secured five defense earmarks for private companies in his hometown of Bremerton, Wash., worth a total of $10 million. Four of the companies shared something in common — they were all represented by the PMA Group, the now- defunct lobbying firm that has spurred an investigation of earmarks by the House ethics committee.

PMA has been Dicks’ largest source of campaign contributions since 2001, according to a Roll Call review of Federal Election Commission records, with the company’s political action committee, employees and their family members providing the 17-term Congressman more money than the employees and PACs of Boeing and Microsoft combined.

But Dicks’ chief of staff, George Behan, said there is no connection between those donations and the earmarks Dicks provides, noting that the Congressman has also secured earmarks for infrastructure projects, libraries, naval operations and other private companies throughout the district that have no connection to PMA…

Much has been made of PMA’s connections to Murtha, who has provided millions of dollars worth of earmarks to PMA clients and has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of campaign contributions from PMA employees and clients.

Dicks has received far less attention but the pattern is similar.

In the fiscal 2009 appropriations cycle, four private companies in Bremerton that received defense earmarks from Dicks were PMA clients: Advanced Acoustic Concepts of Hauppauge, N.Y.; Planning Systems Inc. of Reston, Va.; Concurrent Technologies Corp. of Johnstown, Pa.; and 21st Century Systems Inc. of Omaha, Neb.

While none of the firms is headquartered in Dicks’ Congressional district, each has opened a satellite office in Bremerton, and Dicks “knows the people that run those firms and he knows people who get a paycheck every week,” Behan said.

The fifth Bremerton earmark was for the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, which has hired several lobbyists, including Dicks’ former district director.

I heard a Republican analyst suggest recently that the Democrats could do themselves a ton of good politically by disowning Members involved in apparent pa-for-play scandals like this one. Now we know why they can’t: their conference would be pretty much empty once they were gone.