When Bill Clinton was elected president, he promised “the most ethical administration in history.” Instead we got eight straight years of scandal capped off with the pardon of Marc Rich. When George W. Bush was running for president, he promised “to restore honor and dignity to the White House.” Instead we got Jack Abramoff. When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) took the gavel, she promised “the most ethical Congress in history.” Instead we got the Coconut Road cover-up.

The story starts with a 2006 transportation bill that mysteriously included a $10 million earmark to build an interchange in Florida’s Lee County. Rep. Don Young (R-AK) authored the bill, but blames staffers for making the change at the last minute. Before the earmark was inserted, though, Young received over $40,000 from Daniel Aronoff and other Florida developers. Aronoff and his friends own land near the proposed interchange that would significantly increase in value if only the federal government would invest in some much-needed local infrastructure. Young’s office says Aronoff’s generosity had nothing to do with the interchange funding and that Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL) requested the money. But Mack’s office says he didn’t, and was surprised to find the project in the bill after it had passed.

For more than a year now, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Taxpayers for Common Sense have pressed the House ethics committee to investigate the matter. So far the committee has taken no action, not even responding to taxpayers’ complaints. Frustrated by House leadership’s stalling, Coburn moved to create a joint committee to investigate. Yesterday, in a carefully choreographed two-step, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Pelosi killed the probe. On her end, Boxer upped Coburn’s joint committee proposal into a call for the Department of Justice to investigate. This made it looks like Democrats actually care about rooting out the corruption inherent in the earmark process. Then Pelosi again did her part to shut down any investigation by announcing the transportation bill had no hope of passing in the House. Pelosi said: “Well, we have an ethics committee,” Pelosi said. “I don’t see why [a Justice investigation] would be necessary.”

Americans concerned about government waste and corruption shouldn’t be fooled by the Democrats’ artful thwarting of an investigation into the Coconut Road earmark. Coburn sure was not. Following the defeat of his initiative, he said:

By rigging the congressional investigation process to fail, Congress has once again told the American people that the earmark favor factory hasn’t been shut down, but turned over to new management. Less than two years ago, Democrats promised to ‘drain the swamp’ and ‘break the link between lobbyists and legislation’ if given control of Congress. It appears that the new majority has instead made ‘the swamp’ protected wetlands for politicians, lobbyists and campaign contributors.

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