Pork-Barrel Politics

Posted at 10:03am on Jun. 13, 2008 McCain's Top Surrogate Is Senate's No. 1 Porker

Pork Projects Make a Comeback

By Bluey

New data on congressional pork-barrel spending reveals that Sen. Joe Lieberman, a top surrogate to Sen. John McCain, has requested the most pork in the defense authorization bill.

Lieberman leads the way with 14 earmarks that cost $292 million, according to a report in the Washington Post that cites data from Taxpayers for Common Sense.

The contrast between the anti-earmark crusader McCain and the pork-loving Lieberman couldn't be more stark. If elected president, McCain has promised to veto legislation that includes pork-barrel spending. Earmarks have a corrupting influence on Congress, and McCain sees eliminating them as a key component to cleaning up Washington.

The next two weeks are likely to feature several debates on pork-barrel spending with Republican Study Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) wanting the House GOP to hold a conference-wide vote that bans earmarks.

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Posted at 2:33am on May 28, 2008 Beating Up On The Farm Bill

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

The Economist does the Lord's work--assuming, of course, that from time to time, the Lord decides to go off and shoot fish in a barrel:

IF YOU measure the success of a pressure group by its ability to cram lousy policy through Congress, you might imagine that Big Oil or Wall Street would top the league: they are the lobbies most berated on the campaign trail. You would be wrong. If there were any doubt, the past few days should have confirmed that America's farmers are the capital's handout kings.

Consider their latest masterpiece, the 2007 farm bill that Congress this week delivered, several months late, to George Bush. Congress and the farmers have conspired to make an already unjust agricultural policy--a system that has subsidised the "farming" activities of such paupers as David Letterman and David Rockefeller--even worse. Through a complicated and overlapping system of government-sponsored insurance, counter-cyclical assistance, disaster aid and legacy payments tied to nothing, the five-year, $307 billion bill lavishes cash on wealthy farm households, the main restriction on collecting it being a means test that applies to couples making more than $1.5m a year. And even that can be avoided by employing a reasonably competent accountant.

IF YOU measure the success of a pressure group by its ability to cram lousy policy through Congress, you might imagine that Big Oil or Wall Street would top the league: they are the lobbies most berated on the campaign trail. You would be wrong. If there were any doubt, the past few days should have confirmed that America's farmers are the capital's handout kings.

Consider their latest masterpiece, the 2007 farm bill that Congress this week delivered, several months late, to George Bush. Congress and the farmers have conspired to make an already unjust agricultural policy--a system that has subsidised the "farming" activities of such paupers as David Letterman and David Rockefeller--even worse. Through a complicated and overlapping system of government-sponsored insurance, counter-cyclical assistance, disaster aid and legacy payments tied to nothing, the five-year, $307 billion bill lavishes cash on wealthy farm households, the main restriction on collecting it being a means test that applies to couples making more than $1.5m a year. And even that can be avoided by employing a reasonably competent accountant.

Read it all. Almost as shocking as the fact that this monstrosity got passed is the fact that Republicans--desperately in need of showing that they have recovered their brand as the fiscally responsible party--decided to vote for the farm bill in depressingly large numbers.

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Posted at 12:36am on May 21, 2008 Trayf

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

And now, for your daily dose of pork:

Despite numerous veto threats, senators in both parties have loaded up President Bush's war funding bill with a grab bag of domestic programs, including work permits for immigrant farm labor and heating subsidies for the poor.

The Senate was scheduled to begin debate on the measure Tuesday, just days after a key panel added more about $28 billion to Bush's budget request for this year and next, with almost $50 billion more for a big expansion of veterans benefits under the GI Bill over 2010-2018.

The new GI Bill and Democratic priorities like extending unemployment benefits are simply the big-ticket add-ons, both of which have drawn veto threats. There's also $50 million to track down child predators, $400 million to help rural schools and $350 million fight western wildfires, just for starters.

Senators are acting as if the war funding bill coming to the floor Tuesday is the last train leaving the station, and, as a result, have added billions of dollars for pet programs and hitched on several policy "riders" as well. Few if any other spending bills are likely to come before the Senate this election year, which makes the supplemental measure an even more attractive vehicle for carrying spending proposals that would stall otherwise.

And despite the fact that this kind of behavior brought about annihilation in the 2006 midterms, Republicans have decided to happily partake in the pork-barreling. The mind reels.

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Posted at 4:37pm on Feb. 28, 2008 McCain Backs Amendment to Halt Congressional Earmarks

GOP Frontrunner Endorses DeMint’s One-Year Moratorium

By Bluey

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) picked up the support of the GOP's presidential nominee-in-waiting today to institute a one-year moratorium on earmarks. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he favors DeMint’s amendment, and he promised to lobby his fellow Senate Republicans to get behind the effort.

“I absolutely would support such an amendment -- and abolish [earmarks] altogether,” McCain told conservative bloggers on a conference call this afternoon. “As I’ve said, I will veto any earmark project that comes across my desk.”

DeMint will offer the one-year earmark moratorium as an amendment to the Democrats’ budget proposal in two weeks when the Senate takes up debate on the floor. His schedule permitting, McCain said he would make the trip to Washington to vote for the measure.

“I really can’t tell you, traveling and campaigning now for many months, how dispirited the Bridge to Nowhere or earmark and pork-barrel spending was to our Republican base,” he said. “We lost in 2006 not because of Iraq but because spending got out of control.”

Last year Democrats passed nearly 12,000 earmarks costing more than $17 billion -- figures that far surpassed totals from a year earlier. The Democrats’ broken promises to clean up the earmarking process prompted House Republicans to endorse a one-year moratorium. While Senate GOP leaders haven’t gone as far as their House counterparts, DeMint said the only way to fix the system is to quit cold turkey. In order to do so, he needs all Republicans on board.

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Posted at 1:30am on Feb. 28, 2008 Republican Earmarxists Try to Smear Pork Opponent

Desperate, pork-loving Republicans turn on one of their own

By Bluey

Rep. John Campbell is under attack from members of his own party for his tough stance on earmarks. Republican earmarxists, angered by Campbell's criticism of pork-barrel spending, are accusing the California Republican of hypocrisy for introducing a bill they claim is an earmark. Campbell has since pulled the legislation.

There is some dispute as to whether Campbell's bill amounted to the definition of an "earmark" because it was a stand-alone bill, which followed the normal legislative process. But because it would have authorized the expenditure of $2.5 million for a desalination project in his district, it was close enough to prompt Campbell to withdraw it from consideration.

Campbell's decision to pull the bill came on the same day, Feb. 12, he visited the Heritage Foundation, where he attacked Republican earmarks and criticized Republicans for not going far enough in their pursuit of reform. The smear campaign against Campbell dates back to at least to that day. I know because I received an e-mail tip from a Republican Hill staffer who prodded me to question Campbell about the desalination project; I didn't take the bait.

Feeling unsatisfied two weeks later, someone in the GOP ranks leaked the information to The Hill, which reported the story Wednesday night.

This isn't the first time an earmark reformer has faced these kinds of attacks. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) came under fire from Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) in 2003 for defense-related earmarks; the episode served as a "turning point" in Flake's quest to end wasteful government spending, according to his spokesman.

Campbell seems to have learned a lesson as well. He told The Hill he wouldn't let earmarxists distract him from reform. Of the desalination project, he said, "Even if it's totally right I shouldn't do it before the process is reformed. ... No bill is more important than [earmark reform]."

Campbell did the right thing when he pulled the bill. Yet even though he made the correct decision, Republican earmarxists couldn't resist the opportunity to attack. I'd expect this shallowness from Democrats, but for Republicans to turn on one of their own confirms that pork-loving lawmakers are getting pretty desperate.

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Posted at 9:57pm on Feb. 14, 2008 House Republicans Aren't Serious About Earmark Reform

Steering Committee Puts Rep. Jo Bonner on Appropriations

By Bluey

Just when it appeared House Republicans had turned the corner on earmark reform, party leaders did the unthinkable. They picked Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) for the vacant seat on the Appropriations Committee, bypassing conservative Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and the opportunity to show they were committed to real reform.

Bonner may talk a good game when it comes to earmark reform. However, his record is abysmal. The three-term Republican scored just 2% on the Club for Growth's 2007 RePORK Card, meaning he voted for just one of the 50 anti-pork amendments offered by conservatives. Andy Roth notes that's the same score as liberal Reps. Steny Hoyer, Bill Jefferson and James Moran. Flake, on the other hand, not only supported all 50, but he introduced many himself.

The National Taxpayers Union scorecard paints an even worse picture. While Flake was earning A's consistently, Bonner was receiving B's and C's. Flake scored 92% in 2006, whereas Bonner had a pathetic 55% on NTU's scorecard for all tax, spending, trade and regulatory votes.

Americans for Prosperity president Tim Phillips called it "a huge missed opportunity for true earmark reform and for the Republican Party."

Of course, Bonner's record didn't stop Minority Leader John Boehner from trying to spin this as a victory for earmark reformers.

Jo Bonner was chosen because he symbolizes the changing perspective in the House Republican ranks on the role of earmarks, and the emerging consensus among Republicans on the need to fundamentally change Washington’s broken spending process.

Boehner should be smarter than to feed us this line of bull. Even though Flake demonstrated his commitment to reform by taking tough votes year after year, the House Republican Steering Committee decided Bonner's convenient change in rhetoric was enough to pacify taxpayers.

We cannot let the Steering Committee get away with this sham. Below is a list of the Steering Committee. Call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and make your voice heard.

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Posted at 1:25pm on Feb. 13, 2008 McCain Calls on Republicans to Give Up Pet Projects

Presumptive nominee backs immediate earmark moratorium

By Bluey

Following a closed-door meeting with House Republicans this morning, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told bloggers that he supports the immediate earmark moratorium proposed by Minority Leader John Boehner and other GOP leaders. McCain also reiterated his pledge to veto any bills that contain earmarks if he's elected president.

In response to a question from Rob Neppell, co-founder of Porkbusters, McCain outlined his views on the current earmark debate:

I think that if we had a moratorium on earmarks, it would be one of the most energizing things for our base. ... I think they would be overjoyed. Every town hall meeting, particularly Republican gatherings, you mention the “Bridge to Nowhere” and everybody knows it. It’s more famous than the Brooklyn Bridge.

I’m not telling [Republicans] what they should do, you know, I’m telling them what I would do. And I don’t pretend to dictate whatever my Republican colleagues do, but I’m trying to lead them in telling them that the earmarks and pork-barrel spending and corruption has harmed our base and reduced the enthusiasm for our party and our candidates, and the sooner as we fix it, I think the better off we’re gonna be.

McCain's statement followed yesterday's stunning news that Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), a close confidant of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, would break ranks with the rest of his party's leadership to swear off earmarks this year.

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Posted at 2:02am on Jan. 27, 2008 It's High Time I Endorsed A Political Junket . . .

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

So this post is dedicated to endorsing a trip to France by Congressional Republicans. Travel is good for the soul. In this case, it may also be good for the national pocketbook.

Posted at 3:05am on Jan. 15, 2008 The Culture Of Pork-Barrel Politics

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

It is alive and well and helping John Murtha a great deal. You have to love the reference to Murtha not "profiting personally" from the ways of the pork-barrel. That may well be the case now, but have we forgotten ABSCAM so quickly?

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