Monday, November 2, 2015

Another hint on federal probe of political corruption

Posted By on Mon, Nov 2, 2015 at 6:48 AM

Conduit for Action, a conservative political organization that hopes to oust several Republican legislators who voted for the private option expansion of Medicaid, claims to have a scrap of information about the ongoing federal investigation of public corruption that has so far produced guilty pleas from one former judge and one former legislator.

It says an organization that has received General Improvement Funds — the pork barrel surplus money divided up by the legislature — was questioned by IRS investigators and FBI about the money it received. That's all. The item notes that questions about such a grant do not amount to evidence a crime has been committed. But Conduit uses the happenstance, fairly enough, as a springboard to call for reconsideration of GIF money.

Again, I am in some agreement with a group far removed from my end of the political spectrum. The GIF money is often spent on local projects, which the Constitution theoretically prohibits.

The short version of the long story of  legislative pork barrel practices is that former legislator Mike Wilson successfully challenged unconstitutional spending of surplus on local projects — county fairs and the like. But the legislature soon came up with another procedure to funnel the money to local projects and so far has dodged any court consequences.  A lot of the money is allotted to regional planning and development agencies in lump sums, with the implicit understanding that those regional agencies are to distribute the money according to wishes of legislators from their regions. And that has been done — with spending following the customary pork barrel patterns of years past (a fireworks show in Benton, to name one).

This is just politics. It's arguably unconstitutional because of the prohibition of spending of state money on strictly local projects. But ti doesn't rise to illegality on a criminal scale without quid pro quos. Conduit for Action claims no knowledge of that, only a purported interest by federal agents. Read in that what you will.

If the feds are nearing any major announcements in the probe, they are not saying.

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