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Jim Mcdermott's Assassination Vacation

Some days I'm amazed the legislative branch can run at all, given the bewildering amount of bills and projects and requests and ideas and junkets that come across the members' and Senators' desks in a single day. (Congressmen, for example, have to vote this afternoon on nine unique measures about whic most of them probably know nothing, comprising subjects like amending the Hydrographic Services Improvement Act and fighting colorectal cancer.)

The special glut in the legislative branch has two consequences: 1) most of our nation's legislators are marionetted by bustling teams of 26-year-olds, as this weekend's Washington Post beautifully described, and 2) many more sketchy funding requests, projects, and junkets than we'll probably ever hear of are signed off on in simple haste. Case in point, from today's Seattle Times:

Congressman Jim McDermott says he doesn't remember much about the alleged Iraqi spy who paid for his 2002 trip to Iraq and accompanied him on the controversial prewar visit.

Muthanna Al-Hanooti pleaded not guilty this week to federal charges that he was paid by Saddam Hussein's intelligence service to keep an eye on members of Congress and to do other work in America on behalf of Saddam's regime.

"I don't remember this man at all," McDermott said Friday.... The indictment alleges that the Iraqi intelligence service, using an intermediary, funneled $34,000 to the charity to finance the trip. Al-Hanooti was rewarded with 3 million barrels of Iraqi oil for his work, the indictment says.

McDermott almost certainly had no idea Saddam paid for his junket; his only sin here was his ignorance as to who was paying. It's still creepy, though -- how many members and Senators have no idea where the earmark money they're requesting is really going? Or what groups are behind the outside advertisements that air during their campaigns? Or even who their own donors are?

--Eve Fairbanks