"House Dems to ban earmarks to for-profit companies
by David Waldman
Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 10:00:03 AM PST
"The news: House Dems are moving to eliminate earmarks that appropriate funds for the direct benefit of for-profit companies.
"The method: The adoption of a rule banning such earmarks by the House Appropriations Committee.
"The reason: The PMA lobbying scandal, recently investigated by the House Ethics Committee. The committee's report concluded that no direct relationship could be established between campaign contributions and earmarks, but clearly everyone's still concerned that there's a relationship, anyway. Hence the new rule.
Will it work? Well, sort of. Here's what the watchdogs had to say:
The good government advocates believe that the Senate will likely take up the slack from the House. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, said Wednesday he does not plan to impose any such ban. His position was seconded by Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., who argued members' right to earmark funds is protected by the Constitution.
"The Senate hasn't been as haunted by the ethics problems, so they don't feel like it is their scandal to have to worry about," [Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington executive director Melanie] Sloan said.
"Yeah. Well, that and the fact that there are other ways to direct spending:
"The ban won’t apply to universities and non-profit institutions. It also won’t apply to items in bills that aren’t technically appropriations earmarks, but function in much of the same way. For example, the narrowly-targeted items that were included in the Wall St. bailout bill, like the repeal of a tax on wooden arrows, or the porky items from the stimulus bill, wouldn’t be banned. And unlike the earmarks in appropriations bills, which are subject to strict disclosure rules, it’s almost impossible to figure out who sponsored or is benefiting from the earmark-like items in non-appropriations bills.
"Then again, Congress is supposed to have control of the federal pursestrings. The modern argument against earmarks, however, is that they've gotten out of control. But directing federal spending is one of the basic functions of Congress, and it's only in modern practice that more and more of that authority has been ceded to the executive branch, through its various departments and agencies. And as any of the remaining Congressional fans of earmarks (or "directed spending" as they prefer to call it, to keep it grounded in its original purpose) will tell you, its arguably better to have elected officials making direct spending decisions than leaving them up to unelected bureaucrats. Maybe, maybe not. But that's the argument.
"At any rate, the ban certainly seems like a step in the right direction no matter how you look at it. Slicing off chunks of taxpayer funding and sending them to for-profit companies seems like the wrong thing to be doing, especially in an age where we're constantly being told that the free market can magically solve all problems, and that we need to rely on it more than ever on account of... our federal budget deficts."
Do you want a Congressman that brings home to his District the most loot from the Federal Treasury? If so, then you are probably a Republican, 'cause in the Fifth District, Republican "Hal" "Mr. Earmarks" Rogers is your Congressman. Government spending is out of control and the U.S. Congress is out of control. If people vote for their Congressman based only on who gets the most loot for his District, then no wonder the nation is headed over a cliff. Look what's happening to the Euro in Greece. Irresponsible spending is the cause! Can America and the Dollar be far behind? Elect More Democrats and return to responsible government. Stepp for Congress KY-05.