Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, another conservative stalwart, tried unsuccessfully to strip millions of dollars worth of farm subsidies out of the bill. “I offered eight amendments and every single one got voted down,” he says.
After the defeat, Flake told the New York Times, “"We have one of our former members in jail right now for basically selling earmarks"—referring to disgraced former member Randy “Duke” Cunningham. “He was able to get his earmarks through the legislative process without being challenged. Jack Abramoff reportedly referred to the Appropriations Committee as an ‘earmark favor factory.’”
In response to these comments, the earmarks’ defenders told the Times that Flake’s comments were out of line.
1994. Again. Right? I mean, these guys were never rocket scientists, but when I see this many people acting this stupidly -- and in the face of lousy approval ratings that should be getting their attention -- I have to wonder what I'm missing.
Like most of their colleagues, Bonilla and Obey think buying votes with other people's money is perfectly honorable—indeed, something (unlike respecting the Constitution) they are obligated to do as the people's representatives. Hence it is light years away from the blatant corruption represented by such malefactors as Cunningham and Abramoff. Flake's point, which Bonilla and Obey pretended to miss, was that the earmark system, by allowing legislators to quietly slip in funding for pet projects, invites such corruption.
But pork is also a form of corruption in itself, involving the use of taxpayer money not to perform the legitimate functions of the federal government but to serve the legislator's own interest--in this case, staying in power, which brings with it all sorts of perks. Cunningham did pretty much the same thing, bringing federal money to his district at the behest of his constituents, except that he got some additional goodies in the process. If the actions are the same, does the antique armoire make all the difference?