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Flake to Offer Privileged Resolution on Earmark Ethics

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said Monday that he plans to file a privileged resolution later this week to call into question earmark requests Members make on behalf of companies that contribute to their campaigns.

Flake was the driving force behind a resolution last summer requiring that the ethics committee report to the full House the status of its investigation into earmarks provided to clients of the PMA Group lobbying firm.

The committee never responded to the resolution but issued a public report at the end of February exonerating the entire House and concluding that while “there is a widespread perception among corporations and lobbyists that campaign contributions provide enhanced access to Members or a greater chance of obtaining earmarks … the record indicates that Members, by and large, take great care to separate their official and campaign functions, particularly with respect to earmark requests.”

But Flake apparently feels Congress needs more specific guidance on separating earmarks from donations.

“What has always bothered me is that Members take too much comfort in the guidance of the ethics committee,” Flake told Roll Call.

Roll Call reported Monday that the ethics committee apparently did not interview Members or staff most closely tied to PMA, and does not appear to have mounted a major investigation of earmarks the company’s clients received.

Asked whether he thought the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct — commonly referred to as the ethics committee — was broken, Flake said, “Yeah it is. I think that’s all you can conclude with [a report issued] without conducting interviews.”

Flake’s office is still working out the wording of the resolution but expects to introduce it this week.

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