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February 09, 2007

Demcorats' Earmark "Reform:" Dirtier Than Ever, Now In Secret

Must-read:

Welcome to Congress's new and dirtier earmark game, in which the big spenders are setting all the rules. In front of the cameras, both parties claim to have found earmark religion, and are talking up a bill that would reform the way Congress asks for billions in goodies for lawmakers' home districts. Behind the scenes, they're working feverishly to keep the earmarks rolling, this time using a technique outside of the legislative process and hidden from public view.

...

[The] new House appropriations chief, Wisconsin's David Obey--a spender for our time-- [was put] in the distasteful position of having to live up to his party's election promises to fix the earmark boondoggle. He begrudgingly promised a "moratorium." And last week, when Mr. Obey celebrated the passage of his $464 billion 2007 spending bill, he bragged that Democrats had fulfilled their promise and "stripped all earmarks from the measure."

"This decision doesn't come without pain," intoned Mr. Obey. "Many worthwhile earmarks are not funded in this measure, but we had to take this step to clear the decks, clean up the process and start over."

The key language here is "not funded in this measure," and it explains why Mr. Obey is still smiling through his pain. Congressional members, led by appropriators and an army of staff, have already figured out a new way to keep their favors in the money, and it might as well be called 1-800-EARMARKS (which unfortunately is already taken). All across Washington, members are at this moment phoning budget officers at federal agencies--Interior, Defense, HUD, you name it--privately demanding that earmarks in previous legislation be fully renewed again this year. There might not be a single official earmark in the 2007 spending bill, but thousands are in the works all the same.

And getting far less scrutiny than before--if that's even possible. Under this new regime, members don't even have to go to the trouble of slipping an earmark into a committee report, where it might later (once the voting is over) come in for criticism. All the profligates need now to keep the money flowing is a quiet office and a cellphone.

Despite a congressional desire to keep this quiet, the evidence of marathon dialing is mounting. Lobbyists, thrilled their clients are still getting earmark handouts, are now publicly crowing about this underground program. Sens. John McCain and Tom Coburn--anti-earmark warriors--sent a letter to the Department of Energy last week wanting to know how that agency was handling the demands. On the same day, DOE chief of staff Jeffrey Kupfer delivered an internal memo to agency officers acknowledging that "offices have begun to receive requests from some Congressional offices, asking that the Department continue to fund programs or activities that received earmarked funds in prior years," and laying out a procedure for handling such orders.

And of course porkbarrelling tax lice don't even need to trouble themselves to dial a phone. Bureaucrats are actively soliciting Congressmen for which earmarks they want, though may have been ashamed to slip into a report:

From: Kratz, Jeff (Appropriations) Sent: Wednesday, February 07, 2007 12:11 PM To: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX Subject: Subcommittee deadline The Labor-HHS deadline for all requests will be April 13, 2007.

This deadline includes any programmatic funding, project funding, bill or report language requests that your Senators would like to submit for the FY2008 LHHS bill.
Please submit all requests by e-mail and deliver a hard copy to SD-156.

Please e mail your requests to Bettilou_Taylor@appro.senate.gov
As we develop specific instructions on format -- I will forward that information to you.

Thanks for your cooperation.

Yup, that appears to be the email address you can write to if you'd like to request your own bridge to nowhere. So, given that Bettilou Taylor is your employee, why not start asking her for shit?


And Ask Jeff Kratz For Your Own Private Military Airplane While You're At It: JackM. says Kratz' email should be: jeff_kratz@appro.senate.gov


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posted by Ace at 04:09 PM

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