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February 10, 2006

The Pork Forces Strike Back: Reformers Targeted For Intimidation

They're squealing:

A controversy over earmarks _ the congressional name for funding pet projects _ is particularly intense. Especially since one GOP-led committee compiled a secret tally sheet showing earmark requests made by Republicans calling for reform.

"Earmarks have become the currency of corruption," Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., recently wrote Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. "We can't allow this to continue."


Fiscal conservatives are particularly determined to cut back on earmarks.

The practice, an old one, has mushroomed in recent years under Republican sponsorship, and the legislation backed by Flake and numerous other lawmakers is designed to trim it.

The measure would preserve the existence of earmarks, but for the first time allow critics to challenge them one by one on the House floor.

Flake, who issues a stream of news releases accusing his fellow lawmakers of wasteful spending, says the purpose is transparency in government. The theory is that forcing lawmakers to defend projects will expose them to ridicule and, eventually, the practice will ebb.

So far, the legislation has sparked an intense internal struggle pitting Republican against Republican.

The committee that controls the pursestrings compiled a list of earmarks requested last year by GOP lawmakers who favor Flake's bill.

The total was 717 requested earmarks, although none for Flake, for more than $4.5 billion.

The response was sharp.

"I am shocked that the Republican staff of a Republican-led committee in a Republican-majority Congress would do opposition research on a fellow Republican," first-term Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia wrote in a letter to fellow GOP lawmakers. "I do not see any other purpose behind the preparation of this report other than for it to be leaked to the press."

The Associated Press obtained copies of both the Appropriations Committee tally and the letter.


Flake, in an interview, likened the tally sheet to a type of blackmail on the part of members of the House Appropriations Committee. Rank and file lawmakers are required to submit their requests in writing, thus creating a paper trail, he said. No such requirement is imposed on senior lawmakers, he added, including subcommittee chairmen with the power to insert or omit individual projects from the bills they draft.

Blackmail is a silly word, but it's hardball. So, they're showing hypocrisy? Big deal. Rather a hypocrite working for good than someone who is consistently in favor of corruption and waste.

As one pork-reformer notes, Congressmen have to play by the rules now in effect-- and those rules are skewed towards bringing home the bacon for the district. That doesn't mean these rules should be maintained forever.

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posted by Ace at 12:10 PM

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