Speaker Nancy Pelosi goes on a shopping trip

During the 2006 election cycle, leading Democrat and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi railed against the Republican “culture of corruption.” She claimed that as the next speaker of the House she would fight against just such a culture. But now this self-righteous strategy may be coming back to bite her.

A little over a month ago, at about 11 o’clock on a Friday morning, I strolled into the Chanel Store on Maiden Lane in San Francisco and almost ran right into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, security personnel in tow, as she shopped.

I was a bit surprised to run into Pelosi at Chanel that particular Friday, because she’d just come off of some serious retail therapy when she spent about $20 billion of the taxpayers’ money in earmarks to muster the votes necessary to pass the Iraq War supplemental bill with a timeline for withdrawal. (President Bush vetoed that bill.)

According to a source at the store, Pelosi purchased a small Chanel handbag, the likes of which can retail anywhere from about $1,000 and up. As she shopped, I couldn't help but think about how her salary as well as that of her security personnel was adding up to make that Chanel bag even pricier — although it was the taxpayerswho were footing that additional expense. To be fair, however, it is standard protocol for the speaker to have a security detail with her at all times, and this was the middle of a workday. Hmm … the middle of a workday and she's shopping at Chanel? I guess the enticement of Chanel can lure one into a “couture” of corruption.

But where does one draw the line between the acceptable or unacceptable use of taxpayer resources? However, shopping on the taxpayers' dime may be the least of Pelosi’s concerns. The “Chanel shopping” Pelosi may soon have to explain how her own family is or is not part of this “culture of corruption,” as Ronald Kessler for NewsMax reports that her son, Paul Pelosi Jr., is on the payroll of InfoUSA.

The New York Times reported InfoUSA’s practice of selling lists of names and data on elderly or infirm Americans to scam artists who’ve bilked these people out of large sums of money. According to the Times, “InfoUSA advertised lists of ‘Elderly Opportunity Seekers,’ 3.3 million older people ‘looking for ways to make money,’ and ‘Suffering Seniors,’ 4.7 million people with cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. ‘Oldies but Goodies’ contained 500,000 gamblers over 55 years old. … One list said: ‘These people are gullible. They want to believe their luck has changed.’”

This is the same InfoUSA that has paid former President Bill Clinton $2.1 million in consulting fees with $1.2 million more on the way, and provided over $1 million worth of plane travel to both President and Senator Clinton on corporate jets.

According to the NewsMax story, just four weeks after Pelosi became speaker, InfoUSA hired her son for a full-time position of senior vice president for $180,000 per year. However, Paul Pelosi has no experience in InfoUSA's main business and holds another job as a loan officer with Countrywide Home Loans.

As for the airplane travel that InfoUSA has provided the Clintons, NewsMax reports thatPaul Pelosi has used the InfoUSA plane. He also confirmed that his mother was aware of his employment with InfoUSA. But, “Pelosi denied the suggestion he is being used because of his family ties.”

One has to wonder if Paul Pelosi Jr. would have been hired to a second full-time position at InfoUSA if he weren’t the son of the Speaker of the House. Isn’t this type of behavior exactly what the American people are sick and tired of from their representatives? And aren’t these the kinds of questions Madame Speaker should be asking if she really intends to wipe out the “culture of corruption?” Of course, that might cut into her shopping time.

Kathleen Antrim is a columnist for The Examiner newspapers, and is a correspondent for NewsMax Magazine. She can be heard regularly on Hot Talk 560 KSFO in San Francisco on “The Lee Rodgers and Melanie Morgan Show.” For more information go to www.KathleenAntrim.com

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