We've already discussed Joe Knollenberg's propensity for lobbyist paid luxurious vacations, but just how close is Joe Knollenberg to corruption scandals like the one involving shamed Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham and the $$$ millions he took in bribes from Defense Contractors. We know that Joe Knollenberg was on some committees with Duke Cunningham.
Or how close is Joe Knollenberg to the scandal ridden lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Joe Knollenberg & The Duke Cunningham Corrpution Scandal
Brent Wilkes was the defense contractor that conspired with Duke Cunningham and who gave Cunningham more than $ 630,000 in bribes. In exchange, Cunningham steered millions of dollars in federal contacts to Wilkes' companies including ADCS and Group W.
This is not small change. Since 1996, Wilkes' brought in at least $95 million in government contracts.
While, the Duke wasn't the only Congressman to receive money from Wilkes or
Joe Knollenberg was the 10th largest recipient of money from Wilkes, his companies, and his employees for the period of 2000 - 2005.
According to the FEC, the following entities received considerable sums of money:
- NRCCC $68,000
- Duke Cunningham $55,750
- John Doolittle $35,000
- Duncan Hunter $27,500
- Tom Delay $26,000
- Jerry Lewis $22,000
- Bush-Cheney 04 $16,000
- Henry Bonilla $15,500
- Ben Gilman $13,000
- Lindsay Graham $13,000
- Joe Knollenberg $12,000
- Billy Tauzin $12,000
- Jerry Weller $10,000
- Larry Craig $8,000
In the article, Lowry states:
Lowry goes on to discuss how it seems to have become commonplace for Congressman to exchange favors and federal money to lobbyists in exchange for gifts, vacations, and campaign contributions. Lowry says:
This is a corrupting process because it depends on congressmen prioritizing special interests, slipping earmarks into bills with no debate, and getting rewarded for it with campaign contributions. In the case of Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R., Calif.), who has resigned following bribery charges, the sleaze slid into outright criminality. Defense contractors who had almost no business got smart and began larding Cunningham with contributions and under-the-table payoffs. Suddenly, the firms won federal contracts funneled to them through earmarks championed by Cunningham.
Cunningham might have been exceptional in his lack of subtlety, but other congressmen work much the same way. Last week, it was revealed that Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R., Mich.), inserted an earmark into a transportation bill that forced Amtrak to haul additional private freight cars or forgo $8.3 million in additional federal dollars. The freight cars in question belonged to ExpressTrak, a company whose owner is a big Knollenberg donor. Knollenberg now says he is going to rescind the earmark, showing that some members of Congress are still capable of being shamed.
This trading of contributions for official favors is ingrained in the appropriations process. It is part of the scandal around former GOP superlobbyist Jack Abramoff. A Washington Post analysis shows that eight of the 20 top recipients of contributions from Abramoff and his team sit on appropriations committees. One e-mail exchange between Abramoff and an associate, Tony Rudy, has Rudy asking whether a Native American tribe can fund a hunting trip for congressional staff as a “thank you ... for the approps we got.”It is no coincidence that earlier this year, Joe Knollenberg voted against ethics reforms in the House that would have limited his ability to give out such earmarks.
In another interesting exchange of favors in 2001, Joe Knollenberg and Randy Cunningham worked together to overturn a cap on lawyer fees in D.C. Apparently Congress had previously imposed a cap on the DC School Board for their reimbursement of legal fees. Lobbyists for several lawyers worked to get the cap lifted. It was an uphill challenge since the Republican's who were the majority in the House always tend to vote against laws that reimburse lawyers because they think such laws encourage lawsuits. The White House had come out against removing the cap.
But, with Joe Knollenberg and Randy Cunningham on the committee, the lobbyists prevailed. According to a December 6, 2001, article in the Washington Post, it was Joe Knollenberg, the new chairman of the committee who bowed to the lobbyists and granted their wishes.
The story of how the lawyers' advocates succeeded illustrates anew the influence wielded by individual members of Congress -- and unelected players -- who take a personal interest in District legislation.
In this case, key roles were played by lobbyist Mark Valente III, who enjoys close ties to House GOP leaders, andRep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.), the new chairman of the House panel that oversees the District budget.
Valente was lobbying on behalf of the Alexandria law firm of Dalton, Dalton & Houston, which often represents parents seeking special education services for their children. Knollenberg has long been sympathetic on the issue of lifting the cap -- his top aide has an autistic son and won a large judgment against a suburban Detroit school district after a debilitating legal fight.
"The new chairman [Joe Knollenberg
In Part II of this series, we will continue to discuss -- or perhaps the better term would be "disclose" -- Joe Knollenberg's connections to the corrupt Duke Cunningham and numerous corrupt lobbyists like Jack Abramoff.