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The Risk of Moran

by: Red Sox

Fri Apr 17, 2009 at 11:33:20 AM EDT

(Crossposted at Daily Kos)

This morning's New York Times and Washington Post each bring us news of potential impropriety between Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA 08), his brother Brian (leading candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in VA), and defense contractors receiving earmarks from Rep. Moran. Congressman Moran sits on the powerful House Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations.

For the uninitiated, Jim Moran has a checkered and inglorious history in Virginia politics. In addition to loathsome intolerance toward religious and racial minorities, he has made multiple ethically questionable decisions.

Red Sox :: The Risk of Moran
And yet, I have stated in the past that while Brian Moran's political dealings with Jim are fair game, his familial relationship with his brother are not. Unfortunately today's news is of the political relationship variety, and it isn't good.

The New York Times reports:

[Rep. Jim] Moran a Virginia Democrat on the House panel that oversees military spending, let it be known that he would attend a holiday fund-raiser for his brother at the Ritz-Carlton hotel near the Pentagon, thus encouraging the attendance of military contractors and lobbyists. And Representative Moran even helped bring along a special guest, Representative John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, the panel's chairman.

Over the next four days, the younger Moran took in about $110,000, including about $20,000 from lobbyists and military contractors. Over all, of the roughly $2.3 million in individual contributions his campaign has raised, about 10 percent has come from people who work in the defense industry, some of whom have personally profited from contracts inserted as earmarks into spending bills by Representative Moran.


"Congressman Moran wants to do whatever he can to help his younger brother," said Frank Shafroth, the representative's chief of staff.

"He is very Irish in that sense," Mr. Shafroth added. "The congressman is going to turn to anyone he knows who might have money and be willing to give it. I think that is an exceptionally natural thing to do."

I understand the Congressman wanting "to do whatever he can to help his younger brother," God knows I would if my brother was running for office. But I also expect both Rep. Moran and Brian Moran to know when such help carries the odor of impropriety, as it did here. Did neither gentleman really find anything wrong with a Congressman soliciting donations for his sibling when that Congressman has a major say in whether those donors get millions in federal earmarks?

The Washington Post reports:

Brian Moran filed a campaign finance report this week that shows he collected $80,000 during the first three months of 2009 from 18 contractors that have been longtime backers of the congressman. Seven of the firms are awaiting approval of Moran-backed earmarks totaling $14.5 million.

Many of the firms are Virginia-based, and those executives who would speak about the gifts said they have long been politically active in the state and have known both brothers for years. Others have been heavy federal contributors with little involvement in state politics. Most have benefited from Jim Moran's role in crafting defense spending bills each year.


Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan group that has been advocating against earmarks, said the donations suggest that Brian Moran's campaign for governor has created a new avenue for contractors to seek influence with the powerful House committee that helps oversee the country's defense spending.

The connection is not hard to draw. If I was waiting on a potential six or seven-figure award, I could hardly think of many better ways to curry favor with a prime decision maker than to financially aid a family member of his seeking office.

Still, it is important to note that there is no proof that Brian did anything illegal. And, as noted in the Washington Post article, the Moran brothers share a lot of the same supporters, staffers, and consultants. Moreover, it is entirely possible that Jim Moran or the donors acted without any kind of urging from Brian.

But this brings us to an unfortunate reality that we will have to face about Brian Moran: his brother is a liability, and their relationship in the political realm will be an issue. I'm not unbiased in this race--just yesterday I wrote a diary supporting one of Brian's primary opponents. But I have tried to separate Brian from Jim, and remind myself and others that they are not one in the same. I just wish Brian would make it easier to do so. This latest episode has not been helpful.

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