What does a Southern California Republican care about the outcome in District 11?
For one, it’s the only competitive congressional race in California and one of the top five targeted races in the nation. In a big upset, McNerney beat seven-term incumbent Richard Pombo in 2006 and this year, Republican Dean Andal of Stockton hopes to put the seat back in the GOP column.
(And no, Fleischman says, he’s not on the Andal campaign payroll. He donated his own money to start the web site.)
On the site, Fleischman calls McNerney out for having pizza with CodePink activists. (For those who don’t know, CodePink is a high-profile anti-war activist group that conservatives loath, particularly after the group supported the removal of a Marine recruiting office in Berkeley.)
But if you look at link to CodePink’s own web account of the lunch, McNerney didn’t go to a CodePink sponsored pizza party. It was one of McNerney’s own “Congress on the Corner” events in May 2007. He has held more than 40 of these events where members of the public are invited to attend and either speak with him personally or listen to his comments. This one happened to be at a pizza parlour in Discovery Bay and the CodePink folks, among others, attended.
As for the quotes attributed in the CodePink account to McNerney about his support for the removal of President George W. Bush from office, I have no idea if they are accurate. I wasn’t there
But the latest issue Fleischman brings up is far more interesting.
On Dec. 12, 2007, USA Today reported that McNerney accepted campaign contributions from the political committee of Morgan Hill-based defense contract EDO Corp. two days before he requested a $800,000 federal earmark for the company.
FEC records show EDO Corp. PAC contributed $9,500 to McNerney in 2007 betwen March 12 and Dec. 12. The congressman sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee on March 14, 2007, asking for funding for EDO Corp.’s “electronic warfare concept demonstrator for the littoral combat ship.”
The earmark issue is tricky on several fronts.
It is illegal, of course, for an elected official to accept campaign dollars in exchange for earmarks, votes or other government favors
But while the term “earmark” has become associated with corruption (think Jack Abramoff) and pork barrel projects (think “Bridge to Nowhere”) most members of Congress request earmarks. It’s a means by which members tap into federal dollars for projects they deem worthwhile, especially if it brings jobs to their districts.
Some of these earmark recipients contribute money to the campaigns of members of Congress.
EDO Corp., for example, also contributed $6,000 to the campaign of Richard Pombo. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, successfully secured $4.6 million in federal funding for a Martinez firm that manufactures biometric identification devices and whose executives contributed to his campaign and political action committees.
Did EDO “pay to play?” There’s no evidence to suggest it did.
McNerney ran on a reform platform during a time when congressional ethics was on the hot seat but he also promised to bring jobs to his district. Should he eschew all earmarks? Should he return the EDO campaign money?
And what about the requests for earmarks that McNerney declined to pursue? Did they contribute money? Unlike many of his colleagues, McNerney fully disclosed his earmark request list.
Fleischman and other critics oppose earmarks, particularly to private businesses, on the grounds that individual members of Congress lack the perspective to properly evaluate the country’s need for the service or the product. Earmark reformers seek a standardized, transparent method to prioritize earmarks on their value rather than a member’s political standing on a committee or seniority.
As I said, this is an interesting issue and one that will undoubtedly surface again in this campaign.