Yesterday, the D.C. watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a criminal complaint against Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), calling for an investigation of whether she'd been bribed to deliver a $2 million earmark. The basic facts, as laid out in a December 20th Washington Post piece, I said, "weren't pretty."
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Well, late yesterday, Landrieu's office finally, after having remained silent for nearly three weeks, responded, providing a number of facts that substantially changed the story.
The story had been that Randy Best, the longtime Bush supporter who founded Voyager, had struggled to find a senator willing to give his company, the Voyager literacy program, funding for the Washington, D.C schools. In the fall of 2001, he finally landed an interview with Landrieu. Shortly after that, someone from Landrieu's office contacted him to see if he might host a fundraiser. He said yes, ultimately delivering $30,000 to Landrieu's campaign (despite his Republican ties) through Voyager executives; four days after that, he landed his earmark, which provided $2 million to the D.C. schools for use on Voyager... even though the schools hadn't asked for it. As far as things on the Hill go, it seemed like a pretty tidy quid pro quo.
But yesterday Landrieu's office provided a letter showing that, in April of 2001, Paul Vance, the superintendent of the D.C. public schools, had written Landrieu, then the ranking member on the D.C appropriations subcommittee, and Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH), then the chair, to ask for funds for Voyager. And they produced another showing that three weeks later, on May 15, 2001, Landrieu wrote to DeWine to request $3.5 million for the program's use in D.C.