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First off let me say that I’m not picking on Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina because he called President Obama a liar. I’m all for the breakdown of political decorum and think democracy would be far better off if politicians from both parties were ruder. For example, imagine if the Democrats had had the courage to call President Bush a liar instead of voting to support the Iraq War. No, I picked on Wilson yesterday because he’s an extremist and today because despite his posturing as a model of political rectitude, he’s a typical pay-to-play hack.
Consider Wilson’s relationship with Fabrique Nationale de Herstal (FNH), a Belgian arms maker. Earlier this year, public records show, Wilson secured a $2.5 million earmark in the defense appropriations bill for the Special Operations Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR), which is made by FNH.
Since 2004, FNH has spent more than $500,000 lobbying for the SCAR, employing the services of a firm called the American Business Development Group to seek funding for the assault rifle. The firm has headquarters in Washington and several state offices, including one in South Carolina.
Since 2003, William Skipper, the president of American Business Development Group, has donated $8,800 to Wilson’s campaign. And Skipper also gave the only individual contribution this year to the Carolina Majority PAC, which is Wilson’s personal Political Action Committee.
“Working extensively on national defense issues with Congressional Committees and senior Federal officials, Mr. Skipper has earned a reputation for American BDG as the leading defense-oriented firm in Washington,” say his bio on the firm’s website. “He has played a critical role in bringing new technologies to the modern warfighter and has testified before Congress on issues related to the Department of Defense and Armed Forces.”
Skipper’s contribution to Wilson’s PAC — for $5,000, the legal maximum — was made on March 10, 2009. Earmark requests for the appropriations bills were due five days later. So FNH’s lobbyist was handing Wilson a check at virtually the same time that Wilson was asking for $2.5 million in federal funds for the lobbyist’s client.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
Chances that a deep breath inhaled today will contain a molecule from Julius Caesar’s dying breath:
Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences, by John Allen Paulos, Hill and Wang (N.Y.C.)
The earth once had three moons; the two lost moons may have crashed into the surviving moon, or been sucked into the sun, or flung out of the solar system to drift through deep space.
In Florida, an 87-year-old World War II veteran flying touch-and-go drills in a Cessna collided with an airborne skydiver. “There was a ‘woof’ sound,” said a witness, “like falling on your face into your pillow.”
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“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”