The "Pros" Of The Earmark Game

Software for fighter jets has helped make ProLogic a small business success.

The company might not exist without your tax dollars - it survives largely on federal contracts.

But ProLogic's business practices are getting attention - a lot of it - from the FBI, which is investigating whether it diverted public money for its own private profit … something the company denies, CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports.

Yet the matter of the FBI probe hasn't stopped ProLogic from getting at more of your tax dollars through earmarks, grants of money without the normal public review.

"There's a problem with earmarks in general because they're not subject to the checks and balances," said Ken Boehm of the National Legal and Policy Center. "But when you have a company that's under investigation because of some possible, uh, impropriety with federal funds, that just takes a bad policy situation and makes it far worse."

Prologic's success at earmarks might have something to do with all the money it invests in Washington: $880,000 on lobbying and $400,000 more in contributions to members of Congress, including those who control earmarks.

One of ProLogic's biggest boosters is Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.V. He used federal funds to set up a business center that got ProLogic started, and helps support them with earmarks.

Like the company he helped, Mollohan, too, is under federal investigations - for his earmarking practices.

Just how much of your tax dollars has ProLogic gotten? CBS News wanted to find out, but they wouldn't tell, or do an interview. So we dug into the new defense bill and found millions of dollars in earmarks from some of ProLogic's closest friends in Congress.

Five members of Congress who've received generous campaign donations from ProLogic interests found room in the tight federal budget to earmark millions in software contracts for ProLogic: $2.4 million each from Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., and Rep. John Murtha D-Penn; $3.2 million from Rep. Peter Visclosk, D-Ind.

In all ProLogic got more than $10 million in special earmarks.

Not one of those Congressmen would talk to CBS News.

ProLogic referred Attkisson to an industry spokesman, who says even companies under investigation deserve earmarks.

"As Americans we operate under a principle of innocence until proven guilty," said Stan Soloway.

Read more about the story on Couric & Co. blog.
Check out ProLogic's campaign contributions here.
The earmarking isn't illegal and ProLogic isn't alone. Defense contractor BAE, another big campaign contributor, says it's done nothing wrong but is in the midst of a bribery probe. Nevertheless, members of Congress requested $44 million dollars in new earmarks for BAE.

"It says to me that the games continue on Capitol Hill," Boehm said.

In this version, companies can pass "go" and collect earmarks even while under investigation. It's a game where nobody loses except, perhaps, taxpayers.

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