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Rep. Joe Knollenberg’s Shame


More sleaze in Washington:

…Congress has told Amtrak to increase sharply the number of carloads it hauls or forgo $8.3 million in additional federal money.

The order, contained in the transportation bill signed by President Bush last month, was inserted late in the process by Representative Joe Knollenberg, an appropriations subcommittee chairman from Michigan. The Detroit businessman who owns the only company that supplies such rail cars happens to be a large donor to Mr. Knollenberg, a Republican, and other Michigan lawmakers.

Mr. Knollenberg acknowledged that the order, known in Washington as an earmark, was likely to help the businessman, Anthony Soave, and his company, ExpressTrak. But he said the main goal was to help Amtrak make money by hauling freight.

Until Friday, he had aggressively defended the provision.

“If you do it right, you are not just throwing money at the wall,” he said in an interview on Wednesday. “It gives this idea some push to make it produce some profit. I think there is some possibility of this succeeding.”

But Mr. Knollenberg changed course Friday afternoon. After documents obtained by The New York Times raised questions about lobbying by ExpressTrak and its lawyers to obtain the $8.3 million for Amtrak, Mr. Knollenberg released a statement saying he would work to reverse the legislation.

“I have decided to repeal the provision and rescind the funds in question,” he said.


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