Bacon Bounces Back, Say Watchdog Groups

Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (D-Indiana) set aside $1 million for cybersecurity software from Cimcor, an Indiana company whose employees have contributed $20,750 to his campaigns and his political action committee since 2003, according to campaign finance databases. Visclosky's campaign also paid the company $5,000 in May 2005 for computer security upgrades.

"Although there may appear to be correlation between congressional earmarks and contributors, no real connection exists," said a spokesman for Vislosky. "[Contributing] has absolutely no bearing on whether he will request a earmark or the funding level of that earmark." As for the campaign expenditure, the spokesman explained that Cimcor is "a local company that provides good computer services," that the camaign paid a market rate and reported the transaction legally.

Other Congressmen seem undeterred by previous scandals in their use of earmarks.

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), who was reportedly the subject of a federal investigation into the ties between his office and a lobbying firm that employed some of his former staffers, authorized $9.76 million for a lifelong learning center at the Marine Corps base at Twentynine Palms, California in his home district. The town of Twentynine Palms, which has benefited from previous earmarks supported by Lewis, was subpoenaed last year as part of that investigation.

According to a spokesman for Lewis, the Congressman denies any wrongdoing and has never been contacted by the Justice Department regarding any investigation. The new learning center is intended for Marines who live and work at the base and will be available for use by the local community in Twentynine Palms.

Last year, SenatorStevens (R-Alaska) appropriated $243,000 for a marine ecosystem education program at Alaska Sealife Center, according to Citizens for Government Waste.

A previous $1.6 million earmark for the center is being investigated by the FBI and inspectors general from the Interior and Commerce Departments amid allegations that it was engineered to lead to the purchase of property owned by the Senator's former aide, Trevor McCabe, according to the Alaska Daily News. Since it opened in 1998, Stevens has reportedly secured more than $50 million in earmarks for the nonprofit facility.

A spokesman for Stevens did not return calls for comment.

Congressman Clyburn steered four earmarks to groups connected to friends or family members, according to the Myrtle Beach Sun News.

Among them are $784,000 for the planning and design of the International African American Museum in Charleston, where his nephew Derrick Ballard is one of the lead architects, and $229,000 for an obesity program at the Charles. R. Drew Wellness Center in Columbia, where his daughter Angela was the marketing and membership director, according to the paper.

In a statement, Clyburn vowed that he vets "each earmark for any improper connection to friends or family members" but also noted, "Should I deny a request from the City of Columbia for funding to the Drew Wellness Center to combat childhood obesity because my daughter ran the membership program there at one time?"

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