Lawmakers Didn't Always Use Earmarks for Personal Gain

Washington Post report shows officials used earmarks for their own financial gain; it wasn't always like that.

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I have a confession.

I have been wanting to write this column for a long time. Not because I want to be sanctimonious, not because I want to harken back to "the good old days," not because I want to glorify an old boss.

But, now, The Washington Post has made me do it.

The Post  unveiled Tuesday a list of office holders who introduced and passed earmarks for projects that appear to enhance their own financial holdings. Thirty-three members of Congress put over $300 million into earmarks near property they owned or operations where they had a personal/family interest. In the past, even former Speaker Dennis Hastert got money for a highway that went right by his property, producing a very healthy financial gain.

[Read: Team Romney Bashes Rick Santorum on Earmarks]

Congress is now struggling with legislation to prohibit senators and members of Congress from making stock profits based on knowledge resulting from their positions.

Now, back to my story.

I remember very well my former boss, the late Sen. Frank Church of Idaho, struggling with a personal decision about his family's property. His wife's father had purchased a 128 acre ranch near Stanley, Idaho on the Salmon River in 1900. Robinson Bar Ranch was a beautiful, rustic family treasure that had been in their hands for over 70 years.

In the early '70s, Church was engaged in passing the Sawtooth National Recreation Area legislation to set aside 756,000 acres of breathtaking peaks, lakes, trails, and forests

[Nancy Pfotenhauer: 'Tis the Season, Congress Gets Ready to Tax and Spend Again]

The trouble was that the Church ranch was next to the land and Senator Church worried that it might increase the value of his property. He felt strongly that nothing he did should result in any way in his own personal gain. Selling that ranch was one of the hardest, yet easiest, decisions of Frank Church's career. He and his wife, Bethine, knew it was the right thing to do.

He sold it, if my memory serves me right, for something just over $150,000.

In case you are interested, the property is now owned by the singer Carole King and is on the market for $11.9 million, price just reduced.

Can you imagine many office holders today making that kind of call, that kind of sacrifice? I doubt it.

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