Republicans Say Mollohan Should Quit Ethics Post
Saturday, April 8, 2006
Republican leaders called on Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-W.Va.) yesterday to step down from his ranking post on the House ethics committee because of allegations that he provided legislative earmarks benefiting companies and individuals who helped make him a millionaire.
Mollohan called the charges "spurious" and said both the accusations and the calls for him to step down are politically motivated.
The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that federal prosecutors have opened an investigation of Mollohan's personal financial disclosures. The article also raised questions about earmarks -- or special provisions included in federal spending bills -- that he has steered to nonprofits in West Virginia in the past five years. Mollohan, a member of both the ethics and appropriations committees, has not been accused of any wrongdoing. He acknowledged in an interview making real estate investments with the head of a nonprofit company that received federal money from earmarks Mollohan backed. But, he contended, he is fully "at risk" in the investments and received no special favors in either financing or locating the investments.
Republican House leaders, determined to deflect Democratic charges that the GOP has fostered a "culture of corruption," immediately called for action against Mollohan.
"I believe it would be prudent at this point for Mr. Mollohan to resign from the ethics committee until this investigation is completed," said Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (R-N.Y.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) called on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to press Mollohan to step down.
"Speaker Hastert and his Republican cohorts are responsible for the most corrupt Congress in history, and the American people are paying the price at the gas pump, at the pharmacy and with record-high deficits," Pelosi countered. "The speaker should join me in directing the ethics committee to get to work, and not cast aspersions on the independent and distinguished ranking member."
In addition to the Wall Street Journal article, the conservative National Legal and Policy Center announced it filed a complaint against Mollohan on Feb. 28 with the U.S. attorney in Washington.
The center began investigating Mollohan's assets after his financial disclosure reports showed a significant jump in his net worth between 2000 and 2004. In a news release, the NLPC said:
"Mollohan's 2000 Financial Disclosure Report listed his income-producing assets as being worth from $179,012 to $562,000 with liabilities of $170,000 to $465,000. . . . Just four years later, Mollohan's 2004 Financial Disclosure Report showed him with assets worth $6,313,025 to $24,947,000 offset by liabilities in the $3,665,011 to $13,500,000 range. It also showed him owning an oceanfront beach house on Bald Head Island, NC which was valued at $1,000,000 to $5,000,000."
Mollohan said he made the investments with Laura and Don Kuhns. She runs the Vandalia Heritage Foundation, a historic preservation group financed almost entirely by federal earmarks, according to the Journal. Mollohan said he and his wife are close friends of the Kuhns.