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Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Den of Thieves

The Legislators and Their Love for Earmarking

It is no secret; elected representatives (of both parties) love the nefarious practice of earmarking for their pet projects. As expected, proposed reform of earmarking ended up as a joke, the opposition was too strong. Ruth Marcus in the Post described it as a "charade". Rightly so. "And so Stark, as I said, would have found the congressional debate a hoot. Because this charade of earmark reform involved lawmakers forcing themselves to take credit for their earmarks -- in essence, engaging in the legislative equivalent of naming the hospital after themselves.

Under the new rule, some -- but not all -- earmarks will require that the sponsoring lawmaker be identified. Big whoop. The problem with the most egregious earmarks isn't that the public doesn't know who's behind them. It's that the patrons are completely unabashed about the pork they are pushing."


"All The King's Earmarks"

Exhibit A: Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens's tirade on the Senate floor against efforts to take away funding for his "bridge to nowhere."

Exhibit B: the entire state of West Virginia, crammed with the earmarked products of the Senate Appropriations Committee's senior Democrat. To wit, the Robert C. Byrd Federal Building and Courthouse in Charleston (not to be confused with the Robert C. Byrd Federal Building and Courthouse in Beckley); the Robert C. Byrd Expressway (not to be confused with the Robert C. Byrd Freeway or the Robert C. Byrd Bridge); the Robert C. Byrd National Technology Transfer Center at Wheeling Jesuit University (not to be confused with the Robert C. Byrd Science and Technology Center at Shepherd University or the Robert C. Byrd Technology Center at Alderson-Broaddus College). "I don't care if you list the members who sponsor earmarks. I put out press releases on every one of them," Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said in explaining how ineffective this change would be.

That didn't stop the House leadership from congratulating itself. "Today is an important day for the House as an institution," pronounced Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio). Perhaps, in the sense that it showed how resistant the chamber is to any deviation from business as usual.

So resistant, in fact, that the writers of large checks, also known as the House Appropriations Committee, greeted this minor incursion on their power with howls of outrage. They were being unfairly singled out for abuse, the appropriators bleated behind closed doors; the new rule would still let the tax writers and the authorizers get away with their special-interest shenanigans.


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