December 4, 2006

Bachmann's new chief of staff: ethically challenged

John Gizzi of Human Events has this tidbit:

Rep.-elect Michele Bachmann (R.-Minn.) has turned to Brooks Kochvar,
chief of staff to defeated Rep. Chris Chocola (R-Ind.), to run her
office.
Looks like former Bachmann campaign manager Andy Parrish didn't get the position he was (supposedly) angling for. As a first-time campaign manager, I didn't see him getting a chief of staff position. I guess he'll still be working for Bachmann, though, considering the invaluable purse-holding work he performs for Michele.

We'll be watching the career of Mr. Parrish closely, because his ridiculous wingnuttery is so entertaining. But who is this Brooks Kochvar?

His current appointment, as the Human Events piece notes, is chief of staff to recently defeated two-term Republican representative and assistant majority whip Chris "The Count" Chocola of Indiana. There are quotes from Kochvar strewn across the internet--boilerplate Republican campaign stuff, but nothing too crazy that I've seen. However, he is not without controversy.

An investigation by American RadioWorks on the cozy relationships between special-interest lobbyists and congressional staffers reveals that Kochvar has accepted two lobbyist-sponsored trips, worth almost $2,000, from the Congressional Institute, Inc., a Washington "think tank." According to SourceWatch, CII is

a DC organization that conducts research and hosts seminars on topics
such as health care, taxes, energy, and the environment. The Institute
is a non-profit organization funded by corporate contributions and run
by top GOP lobbyists

Judge for yourself the trustworthiness of this organization and the appropriateness of their corporate-funded junkets to high-end spas and resorts.

After coming under the scrutiny of news organizations, the CII dramatically cut back its lobbyist-sponsored trips in 2006, dropping from a total of nearly 1,000 sponsored trips between 2002 and 2005 to just 17 in the first 8 months of 2006.

One factor in Chocola's loss were allegations of corruption against him. In his 4 years in Congress, he amassed tens of thousands in campaign contributions from tainted GOP lawmakers like Tom Delay ($40,000), Bob Ney ($8,000), Duke Cunningham ($6,000), and current leaders John Boehner and Roy Blunt (over $25,000 each.) Many believe that his close ties to Delay and the GOP leadership were factors in his rapid rise to position of prominence as assistant majority whip and key seats on the Ways and Means Committee and the Budget Committee, which resulted in millions of dollars in pork for his district. Also factoring into the loss were Chocola's close ties to the unpopular President Bush, who appeared with Chocola several times.

Going back further in Kochvar's career, it appears that, before coming to Chocola's staff, he worked for disgraced Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham, now serving over 8 years in prison for accepting over $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors and for tax evasion.

With this background, it is clear that Kochvar has a history in the GOP culture of corruption, and, with his selection as her chief of staff, Michele Bachmann has made it clear that she wants to be a part of that culture.

Posted by at 11:38 PM