February 28, 2012

As Voters Take Aim At Corruption This Year, Will Congressman Tim Holden’s History Catch Up With Him?

As Voters Take Aim At Corruption This Year, Will Congressman Tim Holden's History Catch Up With Him?
Rep. Tim Holden (D-PA)
A look at recent political advertising reveals a reoccurring trend this election cycle: attacks on politicians for being too close to K Street. The Republican-affiliated Americans for Prosperity group has featured lobbyist donations from energy companies in attack ads against President Obama. Similarly, Mitt Romney’s allies have launched attacks on Newt Gingrich for accepting lobbying fees from Freddie Mac.

Indeed, anger at the influence of lobbyists can been seen in both the Occupy and Tea Party movements, and politicians from both parties are not immune criticism. As voters take aim at K Street, the question becomes, how many lawmakers will be swept away by the backlash?

For the first time, Congressman Tim Holden, a pro-big business Democrat in Pennsylvania, faces a competitive primary election. Holden is running in a redrawn district, one that is made up of nearly two-thirds new voters. While the Harrisburg-area representative has laid low in recent years, he may face new questions about corruption throughout his career:

Involvement With The PMA Scandal. In early 2009, the FBI raided the offices of the PMA Group, a lobbying firm close to Democratic lawmakers. According to the Associated Press, Holden received over $60,000 in donations from PMA Group employees. Throughout the years, Holden earmarked taxpayer grants to PMA Group’s clients, including a $3.2 million gift to Fidelity Technologies.

Before Earmark Ban, Holden Continued Taxpayer Requests For Donors. Just before the ban on earmarks, Holden continued to steer federal money to his contributors. The New York Times reported that Holden helped secure $500,000 to the East Penn Manufacturing Co, a firm run by a donor to Holden’s campaign.

In a discussion about earmarking taxpayer money to donors, Holden once remarked, “I thought that’s what congressmen were supposed to do.” And on a separate occasion, asked about why so many recipients of his earmarks gave to his campaign, Holden replied: “Who is going to contribute to your campaign, people you don’t help?”