Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., must feel like Dr. Frankenstein. Fed up with the cronyism and corruption that a federal inspector general exposed within the board of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Wolf is now trying to undo his own reform of the independent authority he helped create.
Last year, Congress passed Wolf's bill to expand the 13-member board to 17, giving Virginia a slightly larger share of representation. But MWAA refused to seat the two new members appointed by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. So Wolf introduced another bill Tuesday that would reduce the board to just nine members, with Virginia controlling a six-seat majority and just one board member each for the federal government, the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland.
The board should have been constituted this way from the beginning. Both airports and the Silver Line that MWAA manages are in Virginia. However, a majority vote will not solve the main problem with MWAA, which was created by Congress in 1986. As long as it remains unaccountable to the people and their elected representatives, it will remain a breeding ground for abuse and corruption.
For example, The Washington Examiner has learned that union official Dennis Martire, himself an appointee of former Gov. Tim Kaine, is not only challenging the right of Virginia's sitting governor to replace him, but also to appoint the other new members Congress approved.
MWAA was originally envisioned as an independent group of aviation and business experts, insulated from partisan politics. For many years it was beyond reproach. But it gradually devolved into a dumping ground for political hacks who used their positions to enrich themselves while their integrity-challenged colleagues concealed their sweetheart deals from the public.
As The Examiner's Liz Essley reported recently, former MWAA board member Mame Reiley was hired as an $180,000-a-year "senior adviser" the day after she resigned in February for health reasons. A longtime Democratic fundraiser, Reiley had no previous aviation experience when she was appointed by former Gov. Mark Warner in 2002. Neither did former board member Jeffrey Thompson, now under investigation in D.C. for alleged campaign finance violations. His accounting firm was awarded nearly $1 million in MWAA contracts.
A downsized board with Virginia in charge is a good place to start. But the problems at MWAA won't go away until Congress starts exerting some real control over the monster it created.