Democrats Tap Mollohan to Head Panel Overseeing Agency Investigating Him

House Democrats chose Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., on Wednesday to head the appropriations subcommittee in charge of the budget for the Justice Department, which is investigating him for questionable land deals.

Mollohan told members of the House Appropriations Committee last week that he will recuse himself from debate over the Justice Department budget, an effort to sidestep ethics questions relating to his elevation to "cardinal," one of 10 appropriations subcommittee chairman. The West Virginia Democrat will serve as chairman of the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee.

"To make certain that there is no basis for criticism of my service on the CJS Subcommittee, I have decided to recuse myself from any related Justice Department accounts," Mollohan said in a statement issued last week after questions were raised about the conflict. "I have written a letter to the chairman that details the recusal. I trust this will alleviate any legitimate concerns about my service."

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Mollohan, a former ranking member on the House Ethics Committee, was forced to resign from that post last year and respond to allegations that he had used his seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee to secure more than $150 million for five non-profit groups in his district.

Mollohan's financial disclosure statements also have come under scrutiny. His personal wealth ballooned from $550,000 in 2000 to $6.3 million in 2004.

The allegations triggered a federal investigation but no formal charges have been filed against Mollohan and the Ethics Committee has not taken any action. Mollohan responded to the allegations last year, accounting for the increase in earnings by saying his real estate investments grew with the market. Meanwhile, the funding for the non-profits coincided with a planned project to bring a multimillion-dollar high-tech corridor to Fairmont, W.Va., he said.

"These partisan, political attacks claim that I have somehow enriched myself from earmarks made to non-profit organizations in my district," Mollohan said in the statement to House Appropriations Committee members. "But as I showed in the hundreds of pages of financial documents that I publicly released last summer, these charges are rubbish, and whatever financial success my wife and I have had is a result of my wife's expertise and her years of experience in real estate."

Mollohan was elected in 1982, filling the post left by his father, Rep. Robert Mollohan, who retired after representing the district since the mid-1960s.

FOX News' Major Garrett and Molly Hooper contributed to this report.

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