Rep. Alan Mollohan, Democrat of West Virginia, has been named one of the 20 most corrupt politicians on Capitol Hill, but he says the real ethics questions are about Republican challenger Chris Wakim.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nonprofit watchdog group, included Mollohan in a report this week called "Beyond Delay," which details the questionable ethics of 20 members of Congress.
The report says that over the past 10 years, Mollohan has earmarked $369 million in federal grants to his district, $250 million of which was directed to five nonprofit organizations that Mollohan created and had staffed by his friends. Mollohan has denied wrongdoing and says he was only trying to help his district.
"If Mollohan accepted campaign donations as well as donations in direct exchange for earmarking federal funds to the nonprofits run by these donors, he may have violated the bribery statute, the illegal gratuity statute, honest services fraud, and House rules," says the report.
Wakim's campaign sent out an E-mail highlighting the report. Yet, the campaign to re-elect Mollohan argues Wakim's past should be examined for ethical and legal violations. In a television advertisement, the Mollohan campaign says that Wakim, who owns a strip mall that includes a bar, illegally paid winnings on video poker machines. Will Holley, a spokesman for Wakim, said the practice was commonplace.
Media reports have also raised questions about the accuracy of Wakim's r�sum�. Wakim was accused of implying that he earned a master's degree in public policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, when he actually earned a master's degree in liberal arts from Harvard's Extension School. Wakim has said he never intended to mislead anyone and has amended his campaign website.
So far, it doesn't appear that questions about Mollohan's earmarks will lead him to lose the election. A recent poll by Majority Watch, a project of bipartisan polling firm RT Strategies & Constituent Dynamics, shows Mollohan leading Wakim by 10 points, 52 percent to 42 percent. Unless something unusual happens, political analysts say Mollohan is unlikely to lose his seat.