Norm Dicks gets ‘Dishonorable Mention’ from watchdog

An impending retirement doesn’t get you a pass from government watchdogs. U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, was awarded a “dishonorable mention” today from the Citizens for Responsibility in Washington in its annual Most Corrupt Members of Congress report. The bulk of the criticism is from the congressman’s ability to funnel federal money to organizations his son David was running.

“After spending more than 30 years in Congress, Rep. Dicks apparently learned a few tricks on how to game the appropriations process,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan in the organization’s press release. “Directing millions of dollars to his son’s organization via noncompetitive agreements and grants is ludicrous. Conduct like this reinforces the widely held view that members of Congress are more interested in enriching themselves and their family members than in public service.”

While the criticism is pointed, Dicks is only within the second tier of legislators the organization names. He joins seven others in the “Dishonorable Mention” category, including California Republican Darrell Issa, who CREW says broke disclosure laws in his quest to hold Attorney General Eric Holder accountable for the “Fast and Furious” mess. And Ron Paul fans, fresh off their outrage at how their delegates were treated at the Republican National Convention, will no doubt be humbled by CREW’s placement of Paul in the same list as Dicks, because the retiring Texas Republican reportedly “billed his member’s representational allowance for travel receipts while receiving reimbursements in identical amounts from either his campaign or one of a handful of libertarian nonprofits, including one where the mother-in-law of one of his daughters was treasurer. ”

The top tier, named the “Most Corrupt,” include four Democrats and eight Republicans.

California Democrat Rep. Laura Richardson makes the list of 12 of the most corrupt because, CREW reports, she “bullied and coerced her official staff into working on her reelection campaign.”

New York Republican Rep. Michael Grimm cracked the list of 12 because, according to CREW, “The New York Republican enlisted a well-connected Israeli citizen, Ofer Biton, during his 2010 campaign. Mr. Biton allegedly helped candidate Grimm solicit large sums from donors, including several pornography distributors, frequently breaking campaign contribution limits in the process, all in the hope that, once in office, Rep. Grimm would help him procure a green card.”

CREW has been publishing its “Most Corrupt” list since 2005. This is the first time Dicks has received any mention on it.

Dicks, Paul and Democrat Rep. Edolphus Towns are all retiring. Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida lost in that state’s primary, so he won’t be back.

Sloan said Dicks’ retirement was not at all a factor in whether he made this year’s list. I asked her that question because I remember receiving CREW’s list going back a few years and each year I would look for the local angle. One year, 2010, CREW didn’t name a single legislator, because after five years of publishing its list and naming 56 different lawmakers the organization grew tired that 37 of those lawmakers were never even investigated by the ethics overseers in either house. Of the 19 that were investigated, three were officially “admonished” and two were given statements of violation.

I tried to reach Dicks’ office to comment on this and have yet to speak to someone there. I’ll keep trying.

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