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The Difficulty of Saying No When It’s ‘Free’

That’s essentially the bottom line for local governments on the receiving end of earmarks when they are represented in Congress by an appropriator, party leader, or committee chairman. At least that's the opinion of Jonathan Allen, who writes at CQPolitics:

“When the House divvied up more than $282 million in earmarks for schools, hospitals and social programs, the bulk of the money was directed towards appropriators, party leaders, committee chairman and tho9se most vulnerable in their re-election efforts, according to a CQ analysis of the bill.

“Of the top 150 recipients of earmarked dollars in the Labor-HHS appropriations bill, 145 fell into one of those categories. More than a third of the dollars went to the 66 members of the Appropriations Committee.”

Not surprising, but “earmarks follow politics (and) power.” For readers with only a “101” understanding of civics, be sure to read Allen’s entire report.

For the last two days, we’ve growled about earmarks going to Vienna, Virginia and Duluth, Minnesota – projects which should be the responsibility of local taxpayers, but which are paid for by all America’s taxpayers. The online Arlington Sun-Gazette reports today on Arlington projects initiated by Rep. Jim Moran, but paid for by all Americans. Examples include $200,000 for AHC, Inc. housing projects in South Arlington or $500,000 for traffic initiatives for Lee Highway, Columbia Pike, Arlington Boulevard, and Route 1.

Many Americans will remember the “New America” floor speech of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on January 4, 2007 when she said:

“The American people told us in the election that they expect us to work together for fiscal responsibility, with the highest ethical standards and civility.”

The Speaker also promised to “clean-up Washington and the fiscal mess” by “passing tough ethics reform . . . and restricting spending earmarks.” However, Mark Tapscott reports at Tapscott’s Copy Desk (both here and here) that:

“The Senate's two most visible and active supporters of genuine ethics and earmark reform aren't happy about what they see in the new bill crafted behind closed doors by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”

Tapscott also reports that Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), one of the two champions of earmark reform, issued a statement that began:

“There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in the new ethics bill, but upon a close look its obvious that earmark transparency reforms have been eviscerated.  Senator Reid has given himself and a few committee chairmen the authority to determine whether congressional earmarks have been properly disclosed to the public.

“My office has confirmed this with the Senate Parliamentarian. Under this bill, the American people would be forced to trust Senator Reid (D-NV) and Senator Byrd (D-WV) – two of the biggest earmarkers in the Senate – to certify earmark disclosure.  This bill allows the fox to guard the henhouse and makes a joke of ethics reform."

As Tapscott concluded:

“Put another way – it’s all a charade.”

HT to Andrew Roth at Club for Growth. After urging his readers to be sure to read the entire Allen/CQPolitics post, Roth wrote, "The ugliness of the whole process is on full display."

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