Tuesday, June 20, 2006

GOP a.k.a Pork Party

With a looming mid-term election in November, one would expect the Republicans to at least offer a veneer of fiscal responsibility. Not so according to Robert Novak's 'GOP continues log-rolling for pork':

JEFF FLAKE, a 44-year-old third-term Republican congressman from Mesa, Ariz., last Wednesday burnished his credentials as “Miss Uncongeniality” in the House of Representatives. He introduced 12 amendments to the Transportation-Treasury-HUD appropriations bill removing earmarks of individual House members, including two by chief appropriator Jerry Lewis. All of Flake’s efforts failed.

That brought to 26 earmarks unsuccessfully proposed by Flake for removal from appropriations bills since May 24. There was no close vote and no serious debate. Republican and Democratic leaders alike voted to preserve earmarks...

...While Flake had dozens of earmarks he could challenge on the floor, he chose two submitted by Appropriations Committee Chairman Lewis: $500,000 for swimming pool renovations in Banning, Calif. (affirmed 365 to 61), and $500,000 for a Crafton Hills College athletic facility in Yucaipa, Calif. (affirmed 368 to 58).

On the day before these votes, Lewis was reported by Roll Call newspaper to have hired a Los Angeles white-collar criminal lawyer, Robert Bonner, to represent him in a federal investigation of his connection with a lobbying firm specializing in congressional earmarks. That did not inhibit Lewis from taking the House floor to browbeat Flake with the appropriators’ theme song: “(Flake) seems to have much more confidence in bureaucrats downtown than he has in the members of the House.”

On the day after these votes, reform Republicans in Congress were startled by a report in the Chicago Sun-Times, based on research by the Sunlight Foundation, that House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert earned $2 million by the 2005 sale of land he purchased in 2004. Hastert last July earmarked $207 million as the first appropriation for the proposed Prairie Parkway, located 5.5 miles from the property purchased by the speaker.

Earmarks increasingly are the source of corruption and ethical transgressions on both sides of the aisle in Congress. Yet the cardinals defend the practice, which has grown exponentially during the 12-year Republican majority. They argue that their constituents want pork, not reform.

The authentic prevailing congressional attitude toward reform was expressed by a Democrat who often is less discreet than his colleagues. The Sun Gazette newspaper in Northern Virginia reported that Rep. Jim Moran told a party dinner June 9 in his district, “When I become (a House Appropriations subcommittee) chairman, I’m going to earmark the . . . out of it.”

There are Republican lawmakers less enthusiastic about earmarks than Moran who vote against the Flake amendments to keep their districts from losing federal funding. Appropriators stalk the House, taking names of colleagues who dare disrupt log-rolling. Every time, however, a coterie in the House votes against pork. Their ranks include conservative reformers Jeb Hensarling of Texas, Mike Pence of Indiana, John Shadegg of Arizona and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. They can kiss good-bye goodies for their districts.

At Charlie Palmer’s restaurant last Wednesday, assembled Republican campaign contributors cheered as John Boehner was introduced as the majority leader who never has sponsored an earmark. Later that day, Boehner voted against each of Flake’s attempted earmark removals. In the House, one conservative reformer commented to another seated beside him, “With this leadership, we never will get rid of earmarks.”


Blogger ESchmeltzer said...

There's a lot more out there. Bill Allison at the Sunlight Foundation has put out an open call for some help from enterprising citizen journalists to uncover more of this kind of stuff. If you go to his blog at the Sunlight Foundation, you can find out more.

June 21, 2006 at 11:20 AM  

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