The House Rules Committee adopted a rule Wednesday night for the Agriculture appropriations bill that automatically will strip from the measure three earmarks for the Canaan Valley Institute sponsored by Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.).
The FBI reportedly has been investigating Mollohan’s relationship to several nonprofits in West Virginia — including the Canaan Valley Institute, an ecosystem science center — that have been beneficiaries of Mollohan earmarks over the years. Mollohan has not been accused of any wrongdoing and repeatedly has denied any knowledge of an FBI investigation.
According to Rules Committee Democrats, Mollohan himself offered the amendment to the bill, which reads, “None of the funds in this Act shall be available for the Canaan Valley Institute (CVI) in Thomas, West Virginia.” Mollohan agreed to strip the earmarks for the institute to prevent any controversy over those provisions from slowing down the bill, Democratic sources said.
Republicans said they had no knowledge of the changes going into Wednesday night’s Rules Committee hearing and complained that it is unusual for the committee to adopt in an appropriations bill such “self-executing” amendments, which are approved without debate immediately upon adoption of the rule.
Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) said on the House floor Thursday there was nothing unique about the process. Obey said he had warned previously that the committee did not have time to vet all the earmarks. He called the Mollohan earmarks “mistakes” and said he asked that they be removed when they were discovered. Mollohan agreed, Obey said, that “they should come out.”
Mollohan had three earmarks in the bill, totaling about $1.5 million, for ecosystem research conducted by the CVI.
Mollohan’s office did not return calls requesting comment.
— Paul Singer