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WASHINGTON – Critics of contemporary congressional ethics charge that ethical lapses allegedly conducted by Representative Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.), a noted congressional credit union champion, are going uninvestigated under a congressional deal designed to cover-up ethical lapses. A report published in the Washington Post charged that Republican House Leaders backed off filing ethical charges against Representative James Moran (D-Va.) (see related story page 8) and Kanjorski after Democratic leaders threatened to go after Republican representatives on ethical questions. Questions arose earlier this year about Kanjorski’s involvement with two companies run by his nephews. Critics charged that Kanjorski helped channel $9.4 million in federal funds to the companies. Although Kanjorski does not sit on the House Appropriations Committee, the powerful funding gatekeeper for all administration spending, another newspaper reported he approached another member who does sit on the committee for help in funding in the area where the nephew’s companies worked. The congressman’s office declined comment on the matter, citing Kanjorski’s travel schedule during the congressional recess. The specifics of the allegations are these. Published media reports have said that Kanjorski has acknowledged that in 1997 he encouraged his nephew, Peter Kanjorski, along with Bruce Conrad, to found a firm called Impact Technologies. Impact Technologies was to conduct research in water jet technology, the science of using high-speed jets of water and other liquids to cut surfaces and drill holes. The research was to be conducted with federal funds awarded to the 11th District Regional Equipment Center, a non-profit Kanjorski founded. When this effort failed, Kanjorski said he encouraged his nephew and Conrad to found Cornerstone Technologies and Pennsylvania Micronics, two companies which have received $9.4 million in federal funds for water jet related work, according to media reports. The Times Leader, a paper that serves Wilkes Barre and other communities in Northern Pennsylvania, reported that Kanjorski’s daughter, Nancy, and four of his nephews either run the two firms or sit on their boards of directors. For a time, the companies paid rent for office space in a building Kanjorski co-owned as well. When reports about the allegations surfaced earlier in 2002, Kanjorski said he had sought an opinion on whether he had to abstain from voting in funding laws affecting the two companies from the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct in 1995. The committee had verbally assured his office, Kanjorski said, that “as long as I did not have a direct or indirect ownership interest” in the companies he would not have to abstain from voting, the paper reported. Kanjorski has further pointed out that neither he nor his family members have gotten rich from any of the federal funds since neither firm has yet to turn a profit. He also noted that bringing federal money back to his district is a significant part of his job as the district’s representative. The Federal criminal code prohibits a member of congress from contracting with the federal government. House ethics regulations prohibit members from voting on legislation that benefits themselves or their families more than it benefits others in the same class of people, according to the non-partisan, non-profit, Washington D.C.-based Center For Public Integrity, which confirmed previous media reports. “It’s clear on the one hand the interest in the matter has not passed, but the political realities stand in the way of looking into it further,” said Bill Allison, managing editor for the center. In the wake of the wave of ethical allegations that swept the chambers in the 1990′s, congress chose the path of political peace by adopting an almost “hear no evil, see no evil” approach to ethical lapses among its members, said Allison. “Unless you are convicted in a Federal Court,” Allison said, referring to the recent conviction of Ohio Democrat James Traficant and his subsequent expulsion from the House, “it is very difficult to get an ethics investigation mounted into anything you have done. This case in particular sets a terrible example because, while what the congressman is alleged to have done may not be against the letter of the rules, it is surely against the spirit,” he said. Allison was careful as well not to make congress out to be the worst of the worst. The problem of legislative institutions failing to police themselves happens at the municipal and state government levels as well, he said. He referred to a survey of stage legislators that the center had conducted which found that some state legislature ethics committees hadn’t met in 13 years, not necessarily because everyone was behaving himself or herself but because there were political costs in opening the matter to investigation. “Thirteen years is a long time,” he noted, “convents don’t have records that good.” Calls to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to ask if the committee had clarified the rules, or had any plans to do so in the future went unanswered. “The bottom line is that the Kanjorski case is not great, but it’s probably never going to see any investigation,” Allison said. “The political will just isn’t there.” [email protected]

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