Small Business; Big Money

Sharyl Attkisson is investigative correspondent for CBS News.
Our Follow the Money story talks about a small business called ProLogic that's under FBI investigation for its use of some public funds. It's unclear where that will end up. But taxpayer watchdogs are upset with members of Congress who continue to "earmark" your tax dollars to companies like ProLogic while they're under investigation.

ProLogic started up in a "business incubator" in West Virginia funded by Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.V. (who's also under FBI investigation for his earmark practices). Once ProLogic got going, with the indirect help of federal funds from Congressman Mollohan, Mollohan earmarked more federal contracts to the company. And the company has been good to Mollohan in return, making campaign contributions to him and other members of Congress who are in powerful positions to unilaterally hand out earmarks with no hearing or group vote (see information below).

All of that, as far as we know, is perfectly legal. The campaign contributions by ProLogic's interests — more than $400,000 — and receipt of them by the members of Congress — the subsequent earmarks by those same members — are apparently legal. So is the $880,000 ProLogic, a small business, has spent on Washington lobbyists. It's all allowed under our system of government. The question that some taxpayer watchdogs have is ... should it be?

It gives the distinct impression, whether it's true or not, that companies can get access to members of Congress through campaign contributions. Access that an ordinary citizen can't get without paying for it. That access can net earmarks of substantial contracts and funding.

It's a system that Washington lobbyists and corporations have figured out and worked out to an art. For example, there's a cottage industry of lobbyists and non-profit gadflies who know how to get earmarks to start non-profits or other entities and then pay themselves handsome salaries using the earmarks (your tax dollars).

The members of Congress who recently earmarked contracts in the 2008 Defense bill to ProLogic are:

Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va.: $1.6 million earmark to ProLogic
Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa.: $800,000 earmark to ProLogic
Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga.: $2.4 million earmark to ProLogic
Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa.: $2.4 million earmark to ProLogic
Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-In.: two earmarks worth $3.2 million to ProLogic

None of those members of Congress would speak with us. ProLogic wouldn't either. But ProLogic was forthcoming when I asked them to list all their campaign contributions since 2000. They provided me a list, which you can read here. In many instances, ProLogic gave the maximum campaign donation allowed under election law.

The company also provided this statement: "All of ProLogic employee and familial political contributions among our employees are voluntary and adhere to applicable Federal Election Committee regulations. These contributions are made by individuals within the company based on their own political views and priorities."

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    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.