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IS A PERMANENT EARMARK BAN REALLY PERMANENT? That’s the worry among Porkbusters old-timers when they hear that the Senate Republican Conference approved Sen. Ben Sasse’s permanent extension of former Sem. Jim DeMint’s 2011 moratorium.

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Don’t refill the swamp by restoring earmarks, President Trump.

While President Trump wants to drain the swamp, his White House has been repeatedly checked by a gridlocked Congress. Now, Trump wants to grease the wheels a bit. He wants to bring back earmarks.

“I think we should look at a form of earmarks,” Trump told lawmakers gathered at the White House on Tuesday. “One thing it did is it brought everybody together.” The other thing it will do is permanently rebrand the party of fiscal responsibility into the party of graft, pork, and greed.

To be sure, earmarks make the legislative process a bit more efficient. And it’s understandable why a dealmaker like Trump would find them appealing as a negotiating aid. But they also lead to waste. Even the president admitted as much when he said that earmarks “got a little bit out of hand.”

When negotiations break down, obstructionists sell their votes for things like a $233-million bridge nobody needs, $3.4-million worth of tunnels for turtles, and $500,000 for a teapot museum. Old, greasy hands like former Rep. Charlie Rangel were even able to secure funding for personal monuments. That New York Democrat christened the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service with $1.9 million in taxpayer money.

Most lawmakers don’t remember, though. When some Republicans tried to bring earmarks back shortly after Trump’s inauguration, Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, warned that “63 percent of House Republicans have been elected since 2010” and as a result “have no personal knowledge or experience with earmarks.”

Those post-pork members didn’t witness the conservative crusade to end the practice. “If there’s a public vote [on earmarks],” former Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., warned me last February, “Republicans are going to get killed by some of these grassroots organizations out there now.” In other words, they can’t comprehend the rake they would be stepping on if they do this before the midterm elections.

That’s absolutely right.

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Ryan stops vote on bringing back earmarks.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday convinced Republicans to postpone votes on bringing back legislative earmarks until 2017 after reminding members of Donald Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” of Washington.

House Republicans were set to hold a secret ballot on changes to their internal conference rules that would have allowed lawmakers to direct spending to projects in their districts, under certain circumstances.

Based on what lawmakers were saying in the meeting, “it was likely that an earmark amendment would have passed,” according to a source in the room.

“Ultimately, the Speaker stepped in and urged that we not make this decision today,” the source said.

Behind former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Republicans banned earmarks after winning the House in 2010, and have stuck by that policy despite grumbling from both sides of the aisle.

With the GOP now set to control Congress and the White House next year, some Republicans are agitating for change.

Reps. John Culberson of Texas, Mike Rogers of Alabama and Tom Rooney of Florida filed an amendment to GOP rules that would ease the earmark ban by creating a new process for targeted spending.

Remember those names, but for now, it’s another PorkBusters victory!


PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: House GOP Weighs Proposal to Bring Back Earmarks.

One week after Donald Trump won the presidency on a promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington, House Republicans will vote on a proposal to bring back earmarks.

The vote will take place Wednesday when House Republicans meet to adopt their rules for the next Congress. The House earmark ban dates to 2010 when the GOP won control of the chamber.

Now, a trio of Republican lawmakers wants to return to the practice of earmarking, which became synonymous with government waste and pork-barrel spending during the GOP-controlled Congress of the early 2000s.

Reps. John Culberson of Texas, Mike Rogers of Alabama, and Tom Rooney of Florida are listed as sponsors of the amendment, a copy of which was obtained by The Daily Signal.

Pathetic. Maybe these guys need to hear from people, especially constituents, about this? I didn’t think I was going to have to pull that PorkBusters logo out of deep storage, but hey, eternal vigilance, right?


200px-PorkbustersnewsmPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: More on pork and corruption in the House:

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.

UPDATE: More here from Jacob Sullum:

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?

To some people.

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE:BYRON YORK: In tough Senate race, pork couldn’t buy Landrieu victory. Neither the Louisiana Purchase nor the Cornhusker Kickback was enough to overcome the toxic effects of voting for ObamaCare. That’s because ObamaCare was that toxic, but perhaps also in some small part because people are less receptive to pork. And so Cassidy countered with the “post pork paradigm.”

So I guess it’s time to bring this flag out one more time.

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Earmark Ban Hits Lobbyists’ Influence on Spending Bills.

If the lobbying world of K Street was as powerful as its public image, earmarks would be back in full force in Congress — or, maybe, they never would have gone away.

The modern lobbying business was built largely on helping clients secure member- directed pots of money in annual appropriations bills. And many of the firms that pioneered the practice have taken a serious hit since lawmakers banned earmarks in 2010.

But don’t expect K Street to mount a high-profile, big-dollar campaign to bring them back. Instead, in private meetings with members of Congress and their aides, lobbyists say they offer a pitch for how earmarks could help lawmakers, who are often frustrated that they can’t direct money to their districts, wrest more control of federal dollars.

And those making the case for earmarks aren’t just the ones whose paychecks depended on appropriations work.

Uh huh. Eternal vigilance, etc. But that they’re still trying to bring earmarks back means that, well. . .

WELL, THIS WAS THE POINT OF THE TEA PARTY’S PRECURSOR, PORKBUSTERS: Tea Party loosens K Street’s stranglehold on the GOP.

WELL, YES: The Tea Party Movement Was Born Under George W. Bush. Glad to see the reference to PorkBusters, too.

GUN-CONTROL BILL FAILED BECAUSE THERE WASN’T ENOUGH MONEY TO BRIBE SENATORS. “Bribery isn’t what it once was. The government has no money. Once upon a time you would throw somebody a post office or a research facility in times like this. Frankly, there’s not a lot of leverage.” Now, no earmarks. Another PorkBusters success story!

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Earmarks Still Have Friends In High Places.

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Earmark recipients filled Akin campaign coffers. “People for whom U.S. Rep. Todd Akin helped secure $31 million in earmarks have paid him back handsomely: The Missouri Republican has raked in nearly $80,000 in campaign cash from people tied to those firms. The five-term representative is in a hotly contested primary race for the Republican nomination to oppose incumbent Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill, one of the Senate’s most ardent earmark foes.”

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Earmarks to Return if GOP Porkers Get Their Way. “Proving they’ve learned nothing from lessons of the past, some House Republicans are pushing to bring back the wide-scale use of earmarks to Congress. These pigs in elephants’ clothing want to end a three-year moratorium on earmarks and start trading pork projects for votes in order to pass legislation, even though their big spending, earmarking ways during the George W. Bush era cost them dozens of elections.”

I guess it’s too late to primary them. This time.

OKAY THE HEADLINE OF THIS NEWSWEEK PIECE ON TOM COBURN kinda tips the editors’ hand, but the reporting gets one key bit right — the role of Porkbusters as incubator for the Tea Party. That’s something that a lot of reporters, who keep asking me “where were the complaints about spending under Bush?” keep missing, though often when you mention Porkbusters they’ll say “oh, yeah, I forgot.”

UPDATE: Wow, that was fast — they’ve changed the headline from “Tea Party Turncoat” to “Dr. Maybe.” You can still see the old one in the URL, though.


LATEST ZERO TOLERANCE IDIOCY: A Virginia middle school student has been suspended for . . . opening the door for a woman whose hands were full. Really, why not just abolish public education, if this is what it has come to?

UPDATE: Reader Christopher Bell writes:

I was struck by the juxtaposition within a few of your posts highlighting ridiculous ‘zero tolerance’ policies where no sense seems evident and prison rape where officialdom is quite content to look the other way. My less optimistic friends would suggest this is a sure sign of a society in self-obsessed decline, but could it be that it’s just driven by a growing bureaucratic class used to operating in the dark with an unearned benefit of the doubt from too many citizens busy trying to get by?

Following the Porkbusters model, we need not just an Army of Davids, but Armies of Davids to tackle more and more of these issues and expose more of this to light.

Yes, we need a zero-tolerance approach to bureaucratic idiocy and self-dealing.


Looking for American leadership.

Been a long time since I rock and rolled.

If you liked the radio-controlled helicopters, here are some recommendations for taking it to the next level.

A bigtime PorkBusters “I told you so.” Because, you know, I did.

Sex on campus!

Why I should buy a Porsche. It’s for Gaia!

The Koch Brothers’ Right-Wing Conspiracy to Undermine the PATRIOT Act.

The importance of defensive recording. More on that here.

Meade is the “New Media.” Plus, calls for an Althouse blog-Pulitzer. Er, if there were such a thing.

A retrospective as the Tea Party Movement turns two years old.

Alexis Garcia interviews Ron Paul.

Reporting from the front lines of China’s Jasmine Revolution.

Dana Milbank losing faith.

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Impact of Earmark Ban Already Being Felt:

When House Republicans were searching for cuts to offer Senate Democrats as part of a temporary spending plan to avert a government shutdown, they were able to reach into accounts set aside for earmarks and find nearly $2.8 billion that would have previously gone to water projects, transit programs and construction programs. No earmarks, no need for that money, and the threat of an imminent shutdown was eased.

Lawmakers said the absence of earmarks also allowed for a more freewheeling debate on the House floor during consideration of the Republican plan to slash $61 billion from this year’s budget since Democrats and Republicans were not caught up in protecting the special provisions they had worked so hard to tuck into the spending bill.

“This is a completely new experience, and a good one,” said Representative Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who had lost scores of attempts on the House floor to strip earmarks from spending bills.

While spending on earmarks is a tiny portion of the budget, critics like Mr. Flake and Mr. Boehner said they played an insidious role in pushing up federal spending through what is known in legislative terms as logrolling. . . .

Top members of the Appropriations Committee might, for instance, grant a lawmaker’s request for a few million dollars for an important project back home. That lawmaker would then be obligated to support the entire multibillion-dollar bill despite possible reservations. . . .

“You get millions for an earmark and end up voting for billions of dollars that you may oppose,” said Steve Ellis, a vice president at Taxpayers for Common Sense, a government watchdog group.

Can I just say I told you so? Because, you know, I did.

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Retrospective: How Earmarking Went From Stylish To Banned.

It may have looked like boom times for earmarkers in 2006, when they carved out a record $29 billion in projects — but little did lawmakers realize that a perfect storm of events the year before had set the clock ticking on pork.

What one anti-earmark operative called the “perfect storm” of runaway spending, lawmaker malfeasance and high-profile bad spending in 2005 set the stage for the slow decline of earmarking, culminating in this year’s moratorium on the practice.

It’s not “mission accomplished” time, because I’m sure they’d like to return to their old wicked ways. But it is a victory.

PorkBusters victory logo by Karl Egenberger, a great designer who also did the original PorkBusters logo. If you’re looking for a designer, send him some work!

UPDATE: GOP Freshmen to Leadership: Business As Usual Is Over.

Related: Freshmen to GOP leadership: We were serious about ‘read the bill.’

Plus, no more voting Present: “I mean I knew it was coming up. I could have just said ‘I’m here’ and not hit ‘yay’ or ‘nay.’ But I hit the ‘no.’ The big thing that we have to do is make sure that anything we’re voting for we know darn sure what we’re voting for.”

THE DEATH OF EARMARKS. At this point I’d say they’re only mostly dead. But — unlike the somewhat-invested author of this piece — I think that’s still great news.

Meanwhile, gifted designer Karl Egenberger — who designed the original PorkBusters logo and who still operates the PorkBusters store — sends this PorkBusters Victory Logo:

But I’m not ready to bring the troops home quite yet. As with some other victories, the follow-through matters.

UPDATE: Bill Allison emails: “Don’t know if you made the connection. Ryan Aasheim, the author of the New Geography piece you linked to, works for a firm that’s benefited (albeit indirectly) from earmarks…” Yeah, that’s what I meant by “somewhat-invested.”

SEN. INOUYE will go along with earmark ban. When Obama came out with his eamark-veto promise, my mother suggested we needed a PorkBusters Victory Logo. Could be!

CHANGE: The Hill: Members seek earmark purity ahead of hotly contested 2012 races. The goal of PorkBusters was, as a start, to change earmarks from things that politicians brag about, to things that they’re ashamed of. Mission accomplished?

LAME DUCKS: “With a devastating electoral loss behind them and a 13% approval rating, Congress flouts the intent of the framers and ratifiers of the 20th Amendment.’

UPDATE: Reader J.T. Smith emails:

When Harry Reid pulls a trillion dollar pork-fest from the Senate floor because he doesn’t have the votes then we can truly say that we have got the wrong people doing the right thing. From Milton Friedman’s famous quote:

“I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or if they try, they will shortly be out of office.”

Harry Reid defeated the right candidate…but it was Harry Reid that was ultimately forced to do the right thing.

Keep up the good work Glenn. You certainly deserve a large share of the credit for this through your Porkbusters exposure and your tireless promotion of the tea party movement

Now, though, to quote another great philosopher, “[we have to] keep our boot on their neck until the job gets done”.

Amen. The people should always have their boot on the politicians’ neck, because the political class is always either at your throat, or your feet. And thanks for the credit, but while I did the promotion, it was a lot of other people who did the actual work, and that’s what really counts.

MORE: Reader Bob Likes emails:

I just returned from an early Saturday meeting and sat down comfortably in front of my computer clicking on your site. Ahh! Like it used to be with coffee and the LA Times.

Then it did occur to me that your deal is like that of my parents before they threw in the towel as dairy farmers. Every day the work has to be done. What is fun for me has to be produced from work by you.

So thank you for your daily efforts. Don’t know how you do it but I am glad you do. And I hope you are getting paid handsomely for it!

I do okay, and it’s still fun. But, yeah, every morning the milking has to be done. So thanks! Nice to be appreciated.


How often do omnibus spending bills go down to defeat? Approximately … never, as Dave Weigel reminds us, and pork is usually the reason why. Not only do omnibus bills appear only when the budgeting process has failed and funding becomes an urgent issue, they also get so large and stuffed with perks that few dare to challenge them.

In this case, though, earmark reformers got the edge thanks to the series of measures designed to impose transparency on pork requests. . . . this result vindicates the efforts of Porkbusters. When the outrage became high enough and transparency identified the offenders, the porkers abandoned their earmarks. As a result, we will see a reduction in spending, thanks to the new GOP majority in the House. The omnibus spending bill, chock-full of not just earmarks but funding for big-government programs, won’t be passed into law after all. Without pork, legislators will have no incentive to pass massive new spending by excusing it with self-promoting home district projects any longer, and the overall spending itself will become the focus — as it should have been all along.

The system worked. This was always going to be a long game on pork reform, and this is the first fruit of an effort started years ago.


PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: McConnell Fights GOP Earmark Ban.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is maneuvering behind the scenes to defeat a conservative plan aimed at restricting earmarks, setting up a high-stakes showdown that pits the GOP leader and his “Old Bull” allies against Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and a new breed of conservative senators.

In a series of one-on-one conversations with incoming and sitting senators, McConnell is encouraging his colleagues to keep an open mind and not to automatically side with DeMint, whose plan calls on Senate Republicans to unilaterally give up earmarks in the 112th Congress, according to several people familiar with the talks.

While McConnell is not demanding that rank-and-file Republican senators vote against the earmark ban, he’s laying out his concerns that eliminating earmarks would effectively cede Congress’ spending authority to the White House while not making a real dent in the $1 trillion-plus budget deficit. And McConnell is signaling his concern about the awkward politics of the situation: even if the DeMint moratorium passes, Republican senators could push for earmarks, given that the plan is nonbinding and non-enforceable.

PorkBusters kind of morphed into the Tea Party movements, and now the Tea Party Patriots are asking the following:

Call these 7 GOP Senators now, tell them to VOTE TO BAN EARMARKS – Mitch McConnell (KY) (202) 224-2541, Jim Inhofe (OK) (202) 224-4721, Lindsey Graham (SC) (202) 224-5972, Lamar Alexander (TN) (202) 224-4944, Jon Kyl (AZ) (202) 224-4521, John Barrasso (WY) (202) 224-6441, John Thune (SD) (202) 224-2321.

Seems to be getting some traction already . . . .

UPDATE: Maybe this reminder, courtesy of the Asheville Tea Party, will focus their attention.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Inhofe gives his side.

MORE: Roll Call picks up the story. I noticed before that there was more media interest in PorkBusters back when it was criticizing Republicans. I’m glad for the attention, but . . . .

STILL MORE: Reader Bill McConnell writes: “Here’s my proposal. Decide how much you want to spend on earmarks and divide it by population to calculate how much each state gets. Then it goes into a stand alone bill which each congressman must either vote yea or nay on. I think in the current environment there would end up being NO earmarks.”

WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Memo to GOP: Don’t drop earmark ban.

In March, House Republicans made an important move to restore their credibility as the party of fiscal discipline when every one of them voted to ban earmarks. “Now House Republicans are going to the American people and saying we want a clean break from the runaway spending in the past. And that’s going to be quite a contrast from this Congress and the administration,” House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence crowed.

That was then. This is apparently now: “With their eyes on a House majority, Republicans are leaving the door open to allowing earmarks after a one-year party-imposed moratorium,” reported Politico on Friday. Republican leaders such as House Minority Leader John Boehner and Whip Eric Cantor are suddenly hedging on the issue. Perhaps we need to remind the would-be House leadership why they should continue to steer clear of earmarks.

Besides the obvious — earmarks lead to corruption — I should note that if the GOP leadership had paid attention to the PorkBusters movement back in 2005, they might not have lost the Congress in 2006. But they were too busy stuffing their pockets to do that, with predictable results. What kind of fools are these people? First class . . . .

Republicans have one last chance to save themselves, or Americans’ growing enthusiasm for a third party will catch up to them — not only in the 2012 presidential elections, but in a lot of Congressional districts. And Democrats, don’t get too excited about that, because you’re not very popular, either . . . .

ROSS DOUTHAT: We need conservative class warfare:

In case after case, Washington’s web of subsidies and tax breaks effectively takes money from the middle class and hands it out to speculators and have-mores. We subsidize drug companies, oil companies, agribusinesses disguised as “family farms” and “clean energy” firms that aren’t energy-efficient at all. We give tax breaks to immensely profitable corporations that don’t need the money and boondoggles that wouldn’t exist without government favoritism. . . . All of this ought to be grist for a kind of “small-government egalitarianism,” in the economist Edward Glaeser’s useful phrase, that seeks to shrink government by attacking Washington’s wasteful spending on the well-connected. And sometimes conservative politicians make moves in this direction. President George W. Bush’s Tax Reform Commission proposed sharply reducing the mortgage-interest deduction. House Minority Leader John Boehner, to his great credit, recently floated the possibility of means-testing Social Security. Many Republican senators have been staunch critics of corporate welfare.

Hey, remember PorkBusters?


S.C. State University’s board voted unanimously Tuesday to conduct an external audit on the James E. Clyburn University Transportation Center to find out how millions of state and federal dollars have been spent. . . . The audit will be the first comprehensive review of the center, through which more than $50 million has flowed since it was launched in 1998. S.C. State leaders have about half that money on hand for the building’s first phase. But they’ve been unable to explain where the rest of the money went. . . . John Smalls, the university’s senior vice president of finance and facilities, estimated the report would cost about $100,000. He said the university might be able to get approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation to use grant money to pay for the audit.

Good grief.

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Harvard Study Shows Earmarks Cost Jobs.

Using data spanning four decades, Harvard researchers measured the effects on local businesses as their local congressmen grew in stature in Washington. The study correctly assumed that when a senator or representative acquired a powerful committee assignment, he would exploit his new position to funnel more money to constituents back home. But the Harvard researchers also assumed — incorrectly, they would discover — that local businesses in a member’s home state or district would benefit from opening up the federal largesse.

“It was an enormous surprise, at least to us, to learn that the average firm in the chairman’s state did not benefit at all from the unanticipated increase in spending,” said Joshua Coval, one of the study’s three principal authors. In fact, the study found that in the years following a congressman acquiring a powerful committee assignment, the average company in his state cut back capital expenditures by 15 percent. In one prominent example, Alabama went from receiving $6 million less in annual earmark spending than other states to $90 million above the state average after Republican Sen. Richard Shelby assumed the chairmanship of the Senate Intelligence Committee in 1997. Shelby earmarked $15 million for low-cost fabricated housing, but the study found that one of Alabama’s largest suppliers of this housing, Homes Inc., correspondingly reduced capital expenditures by 79.5 percent and downsized its work force by 30 percent.

Coincidence? Not likely. “The pattern repeats itself across decades and over thousands of firms.”

It’s all about the welfare of the political class and its cronies, it’s not even about “taking care of the district.”

PETER INGEMI: “One of the things that people don’t seem to realize about the tea party movement is that although it is a fiscally conservative movement it is not a Republican movement.” With some PorkBusters history. Funny how people who ask why no one was complaining about spending during the Bush era keep forgetting PorkBusters — even though some of them, like Andrew Sullivan, were deriding PorkBusters back then as some sort of distraction from whatever it was they were pushing at the time.

Related: Noemie Emery: Media Still Clueless About Tea Parties.

INSTAVISION: Growing A Grassroots Powerhouse: How the Cincinnati Tea Party Did It. As you can see, I had backup from the PorkBusters pig. . . . (Bumped.)

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Citizens Against Government Waste praises the new earmark moratorium:

“CCAGW supports this step on the journey toward the complete elimination of congressional earmarks,” said CCAGW President Tom Schatz. “Over the last three years, under intense pressure from taxpayers, member of Congress have been ratcheting down their earmarks and the earth has not stopped rotating on its axis. With each reduction, members confirm what CCAGW and other taxpayer groups have been saying all along: Historically, Congress has not had to earmark in order to do the taxpayers’ business and that Congress can, and should, live without earmarks.”

In fact, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week called for a one-year moratorium on all earmarks but has not made any specific proposal to implement her plan.

Fewer earmarks are better earmarks.

Related: House GOP Votes to Ban All Earmarks.

HEY, REMEMBER PORKBUSTERS? So I was talking to a reporter about the Tea Party movement yesterday, and he asked why nobody was complaining about spending under Republicans. Well, I remarked, there was the whole PorkBusters movement, whose biggest target was probably Trent “I’m damned tired of Porkbusters” Lott. “Oh yeah,” he said. “I had forgotten about that.”

So here’s a reminder. And a few other items here and here. And I noted to him that CNN was a lot more interested in having me on back when I was criticizing Republicans for spending . . . .

UPDATE: Reader Karl Egenberger writes: “And, don’t forget, the PorkBusters logos was done by Karl Egenberger, send him some work!”

(Bumped from Feb. 12th, because apparently people still need reminding.)

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: QUID PRO QUO. In e-mails, lobbyists perceive ties between campaign cash, earmarks.

In summer 2007, for example, senior executives at a small McLean defense firm tried to figure out which of them would buy a ticket to a wine-tasting fundraiser for Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), a member of the Appropriations subcommittee on defense. At the time, the company sought help from Moran’s office in securing contracts through special earmarks added to the defense bill.

In an e-mail exchange, one senior officer said he didn’t understand why he had to attend the fundraiser when he didn’t even drink wine.

“You don’t have to drink,” Innovative Concepts’ chief technology officer, Andrew Feldstein, shot back in an e-mail. “You just have to pay.”

“LOL,” responded the other officer.

Yeah, real funny. “Moran raked in $91,900 in campaign checks to his personal campaign and leadership PAC that day. He secured an $800,000 earmark for Innovative Concepts in the 2008 defense appropriations bill.”

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: No dip in earmarks despite White House push for transparency.

Transparency requirements pushed for by the Obama administration have not changed the total spending on earmarks for 2010, according to a study by a group critical of the practice.

The amount of money directed by lawmakers in 2010 to specific projects back in their districts adds up to $15.9 billion, according to the analysis by Taxpayers for Common Sense. . . . As a presidential candidate, Obama called for cutting earmarks down to their 1994 levels, or about $8 billion. He has since called for a competitive bidding process for earmarks going to for-profit companies, a move that has been adopted by the House but not the Senate.

Worse yet, the earmarks are vote-buying tools to promote the passage of huge spending bills. It’s not the amount of spending the earmarks embody, it’s the big-government corruption that they enable.

A TEA PARTY LOGO from Karl Egenberger, who also created the PorkBusters logo.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Cleaver earmark puts into focus one peril of politics.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver likes earmarks.

His rule: If they come to his district, federal funds are well worth wrangling over, especially for infrastructure repairs and nonprofit causes.

But how does an East Coast software company qualify for a Cleaver earmark?

For two years, the Kansas City Democrat has secured earmarks totaling about $2 million with the aim of supplying a south Kansas City defense plant the latest in design software technology.

What seemed to him an easy chance to bring home some bacon, however, turned into a lesson on why earmarks are so controversial and difficult to follow.

For starters, the local plant he sought to help — the federally owned Honeywell Federal Manufacturing & Technologies Kansas City Plant — never asked for the money, plant officials said. . . . In tracing the origins of one little earmark — just a drop in a $7.7 billion bucket of pet projects earmarked in Congress’ recent omnibus spending bill — The Kansas City Star found that a lobbying group working for Massachusetts-based Parametric pushed for the funds.

That lobbyist, known as The PMA Group, is under federal investigation for its dealings with lawmakers. It was a major campaign donor to an Indiana congressman and others who served on the appropriations panel that signed off on Cleaver’s earmark.

Read the whole thing. And note the Visclosky connection.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: This sounds promising. Reps. look to cut ties between earmarks, donations:

Two reform-minded Democrats will introduce a bill Wednesday to address the growing controversy around the corruptive influence of earmarks and campaign donations from the companies that receive them.

Reps. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who are in their second terms, are co-sponsoring a measure that would prevent lawmakers from taking campaign contributions from entities for which they have requested earmarks, as well as the entities lobbyists and employees.
The members are among more than two-dozen Democrats who have supported a resolution anti-earmark crusader Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) has offered seven times in the past two months. The measure would force the ethics committee to investigate the nexis between campaign contributions from embattled PMA Group lobbyists and its employees and the earmarks lawmakers’ requested for PMA clients.

PMA Group shut down after the FBI raided its Northern Virginia offices last year and is reportedly investigating fraudulent campaign donations from so-called straw donors. The firm had showered millions of dollars in campaign donations on members of Congress and its clients received hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks in return.

PMA beneficiaries include John Murtha, Jim Moran, and Pete Visclosky.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: More earmark shenanigans.

Groups that monitor government transparency and the use of federal funds are especially troubled by the trend of members on the powerful House and Senate appropriations committees — which are in charge of setting specific money expenditures — earmarking taxpayer money to fund lawmaker-created non-profit organizations. Rogers and Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., who like his Kentucky counterpart hails from an economically strapped region struggling to bring in new industry, stand out as prime examples of this practice, said William Allison, senior fellow at the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit group that advocates for transparency in government.

“You’re using federal money to create organizations that wouldn’t exist,” Allison said. “They’re hiring people — sometimes bringing in political supporters. Sometimes (those supporters) promote the lawmaker as much as the group, because they’re out in the community and people identify the group with the member. It amplifies the member and it raises a lot of questions.”

Taxpayer advocacy groups also say such practices are an abuse of power, an example of Rogers using his political clout to channel millions in federal homeland security funds into pet projects for his district.

Read the whole thing. This should be illegal — but how likely is such a law to pass?

IN TODAY’S WALL STREET JOURNAL, I talk about “Tea Party” protests as an Army of Davids phenomenon.

UPDATE: New York Post: Time To Make Some Noise. ” Complaining about taxes is as American as apple pie. But the spending has never been so crazed. Nothing wrong with a few folks reminding the people they put in office that it’s time to get things under control.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Worth noting:

• If you’re a 50-year old-with a college degree, you will pay approximately $81,000 over your working life just to pay the interest on the debt in the Obama budget.
• If you’re a 40-year-old, you’ll pay $132,000.
• And if you’re a 20-year-old, just starting out after college, you will pay a whopping $114,000 just to service the interest on the debt created by the Obama budget.

Plus, IRS workers see double standard on tax errors:

The Treasury secretary, who oversees the IRS, didn’t pay all his taxes. Neither did five other top nominees for the Obama administration, or their spouses.

Now, as Wednesday’s tax deadline looms, some Americans are wondering why they should comply with the arcane requirements of the Internal Revenue Service when top administration officials failed to do the same. Even some IRS employees are upset at what they see as a double standard.

The most criticized example has been Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who admitted not paying $34,000 in payroll and Social Security taxes, saying his failure to pay was an oversight. Five other nominees disclosed similar tax issues, including one as recently as two weeks ago when Kathleen Sebelius, President Barack Obama’s pick for secretary of health and human services, admitted she didn’t pay $7,040.

“Our members are upset and angry,” said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, referring to concern bubbling up within the IRS over unusually strict rules that can cost agents their jobs if they make a mistake. In some cases, IRS employees have lost jobs for simply filing a late return or failing to report a few hundred dollars of interest income.

Instead of loosening the rules for IRS employees, though, shouldn’t we tighten them for the folks at the top? And — just maybe — simplify the tax system to reduce the chance — or the excuse — of honest errors?

Plus, a history: How the Tea Party movement got started.

MORE: I was on C-Span talking about this earlier. Here’s the video. (Sorry — had to remove embedded video as it seems to have killed them.)

[LATER: Here it is via YouTube:]

Plus, from most Big Media, “confusion and ambivalence.” “A good story is to be had, but it’s not exactly a story they want to tell. So what to do?”

Some related thoughts here:

A few years ago, Glenn Reynolds, Rob Neppell, Ed Morrissey and other prominent bloggers tried putting the spotlight on the Bush administration’s runaway spending with an organization called Porkbusters. The outrage they expressed was genuine but it did’t light a fire with enough people.

Little did they know that the Bush administration’s spending would look modest compared with the next administration’s out-of-control spending spree. Little did these fiscal conservatives know that a Democratic administration would overreach as badly as this administration has overspent on one bailout after another.

The Obama administration’s proposed spending trillions of dollars on bailouts lit the fuse that the triumvirate of Reynolds, Neppell and Morrissey tried lighting.

So Obama, Pelosi and Reid succeeded where Reynolds, Neppell, and Morrissey failed! But at least we managed to annoy Trent Lott.

And we might as well run this graphic again. It’s pretty illustrative.

Plus: Rick Santelli: “I’m Pretty Proud of This.” He should be. He didn’t actually start it, but he gave it a huge boost, and a name.

SO WHY ARE WE SEEING TEA PARTIES NOW, rather than back in the Bush Administration? It’s important to note that we did see pushback on spending in the Bush years — e.g., the PorkBusters movement that Trent Lott became “damn tired” of — but this graphic may explain why people are more upset now. In terms of both trend and magnitude, things are really different now.


porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Flake Uses Lobbying Scandal To Push Earmark Case:

A growing scandal over a lobbying firm specializing in defense issues has given U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake his latest target in an ongoing crusade against earmarks.

The fifth-term congressman, an ardent fiscal conservative who has at times bucked even his own party’s leadership, has offered seven privileged resolutions to various spending measures seeking an investigation into the PMA Group, a lobbying firm with close ties to several powerful members of Congress.

PMA Group, which was raided by the FBI in November, was run by former aides to Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., chairman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, and several other top Democrats.

The committee handles all defense spending measures, making it one of the most lucrative targets for lobbyists. In 2008, PMA earned $13.5 million for its lobbying efforts. The company has secured $113 million in contracts for its clients since 1998. . . . Other top defense appropriators, including Reps. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind.; Norm Dicks, D-Wash., and Jim Moran, D-Va., have also been major recipients of the lobbying firm’s contributions. In 2008, CRP data show PMA gave $237,500 to Democrats and $141,000 to Republicans.

The firm’s founder, Paul Magliocchetti, was a former chief of staff in Murtha’s congressional office, while two other PMA lobbyists served in the same capacity for Visclosky and Moran.

In the wake of the scandal, which has shut down PMA Group and led many of its lobbyists to open a new firm not associated with Magliocchetti, Flake has stepped in to try and force an investigation.

Read the whole thing. Plus, questions about Rep. Norm Dicks and PMA.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: The Hill: Online Hide and Go Seek:

Scores of House members are hiding their earmark requests in obscure corners of their official websites — sticking to the letter of their new rule while shunning its spirit.

The lawmakers are interpreting an ambiguous rule liberally, disclosing their requests as required on their official congressional webpages but avoiding any prominent display. Under the new rule, touted by House Democrats and echoed by President Obama as a move toward a more open system of earmarking, members submitting spending requests for 2010 to the Appropriations Committee are required to create an active link on their webpages giving the details.

But the requirement to create a link allows for great disparity, from Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) down the line to the most junior member of the minority, in how and where those requests are displayed. . . .

Many members, including Majority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Minority Deputy Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the highest-ranking Republican to request any earmarks, opted to disclose theirs in press releases, either on their main page or a click away.

The ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, Rep. Jerry Lewis (Calif.), could not display his requests any more prominently. They are his leading news item, nearly impossible to miss.

But dozens of members’ requests could be found only by scouring their pages and trolling through any number of different categories, from “Issues” to “Legislation” to “District” to — in at least one case — “Other.” Viewers of these members’ pages would have to click three or more times to get the list of submitted projects, and that is assuming the website visitor knows where to look.

According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, 71 lawmakers, not including those known to have rejected earmarks for at least this year, had failed to establish their links or created links that were simply not findable as of 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Read the whole thing. Transparency!

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: I thought Obama promised to get rid of earmarks! And yet:

Who says Members are opposed to earmarks? We hear that the earmark computer in the Appropriations Committee – the earmark database member request system, to be exact — broke down today. Again. This after it was revamped after last year’s overwhelming earmarking.

We also hear that Approps will announce they are extending the earmark request deadline as a result – it’s now 5p.m. Saturday.

I would say to hold on to your wallets — but they’ve already picked your pocket.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Editorial: Jeff Flake pounds Congress on earmark evasion:

Congress on Tuesday shamed itself by going on record, yet again, for what amounts to operating as its own protection racket. The House voted down a resolution by Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., asking the Ethics Committee to investigate whether there were any quid pro quos between federal spending earmarks and campaign donations linked to the now-disbanded lobbying firm known as the PMA Group. This was the third time in a few weeks the House defeated the Flake amendment. The PMA Group, which mostly handled defense issues, is under federal investigation specifically related to political contributions. The company was founded by a former key aide to Rep. John Murtha, D-Penn. . . .

Do these people think they are invisible? Cover my back and I’ll cover yours is the way too many in Congress view ethics issues. But Flake should not give up. He ought to offer a new resolution, again tied to 2009 PMA-related earmarks, and this time specify just which clauses of Chapter Four of the House Ethics Manual might be implicated. Members who vote again to sweep such a resolution under the rug might as well wear a sign that says Corruption-R-Us. We’ll publish their names.

Sounds good to me.


President Obama has vowed to curb the number of earmarks, also known as pork, in future spending bills. A commendable promise, had his number been zero. Unfortunately, the president wants to deal with an unsavory dish by cutting the portion size. Earmarks are pet projects that lawmakers stuff into spending bills. There are 9,000 earmarks in the omnibus appropriations bill about which Obama gave his pork talk on Wednesday. . . .

But earmark spending is not only about money. It is about enabling fundamentally corrupt practices in the budgeting process. Too often the following happens:

Member of Congress obtains pork for a group or business. The recipient returns some of it in the form of campaign cash or, in at least one case, antiques for the home. Former Rep. Randy Cunningham, a California Republican, was famously brought down by a bribe-for-earmark scandal including Persian rugs.

The FBI is now investigating PMA Group on suspicions of making phony campaign donations to select representatives. Rep. John Murtha has received generous contributions from the employees of PMA, a lobbying firm whose clients have enjoyed earmarks, courtesy of the Pennsylvania Democrat.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid likes the status quo on pork. Waving the flag of American security, a spokesman for the Nevada Democrat recently told The Washington Post that defense-related earmarks “improve critical national defense programs.”

No, they don’t. Every defense-related earmark goes to something the Defense Department didn’t ask for — and is usually directed to some contractor back in the district. That money could have gone to actually enhancing national security.

Read the whole thing.

MORE ON THE Murtha / Visclosky / Moran / PMA scandal:

In some ways, Visclosky’s story tells a generic tale of corruption that apply to more than a few of our elected Representatives and Senators on Capitol Hill. He sits on the most powerful committee, Appropriations, which lays out the budget for the entire federal government. His vote on budgetary matters has much more influence on spending than others, which allows Visclosky to champion or kill projects at whim — and donors know it. That makes Visclosky the same as every other member of Appropriations, including the Republicans.

The question will be whether Visclosky actively sold his vote in return for contributions or personal remuneration. The feds have seized PMA’s records, which might shed some light on the question, but no one has been charged with corruption or bribery … yet. They seemed most interested in Murtha, but the sheer volume of contributions to Visclosky and his sponsorship of tens of millions of pork dollars to PMA clients in return certainly give an impression that Visclosky was available for rent, if not for sale.

Critics of porkbusters chide us for the relatively small pickings pork-barrel politics provides. The amount of money isn’t the point; it’s the influence-peddling and corruption from earmarks that is thr corrosive danger. Capitol Hill argues that it’s better to have Congress delineate spending on projects rather than faceless bureaucrats in federal agencies, but they have procurement rules imposed on their spending, including competitive bidding and conflict-of-interest restrictions that have the weight of criminal law. Earmarks bypass all of that, and allow elected officials to set up contribution machines such as PMA. In essence, they pay for their continued incumbency with our tax dollars, and regardless of how much that costs, it’s simply not democracy and it’s simply corruption.


porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Reid to Obama: Let Us Keep Earmarks!

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants the White House to tread lightly on earmarks, saying that any push by the Obama administration to clamp down on pet projects would be met with strong opposition from congressional leaders.

“We cannot let spending be done by a bunch of nameless, faceless bureaucrats,” Reid said, arguing that lawmakers are much more in tune with federal money needs for their states than agencies in Washington.

Reid’s comments came a day after President Barack Obama called for slicing the skyrocketing national debt.

Earmarking money has been the subject of increased scrutiny after the practice became the subject of high-profile corruption scandals on Capitol Hill in recent years, and led to a sweeping ethics reform law in 2007. . . . In the omnibus spending bill working its way through Congress, there are 8,570 earmarks worth $7.7 billion, according to the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

This will be a good test of whether Obama will walk the walk, or just talk the talk.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Here’s more on that Murtha earmark scandal:

More than 100 House members secured earmarks in a major spending bill for clients of a single lobbying firm — The PMA Group — known for its close ties to John P. Murtha , the congressman in charge of Pentagon appropriations.

“It shows you how good they were,” said Keith Ashdown, chief investigator at the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense. “The sheer coordination of that would take an army to finish.”

PMA’s offices have been raided, and the firm closed its political action committee last week amid reports that the FBI is investigating possibly illegal campaign contributions to Murtha and other lawmakers. . . . In the spending bill managed by Murtha, the fiscal 2008 Defense appropriation, 104 House members got earmarks for projects sought by PMA clients, according to Congressional Quarterly’s analysis of a database constructed by Ashdown’s group.

Those House members, plus a handful of senators, combined to route nearly $300 million in public money to clients of PMA through that one law (PL 110-116).

And when the lawmakers were in need — as they all are to finance their campaigns — PMA came through for them.

Stay tuned.


porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Schumer on “those little tiny, yes, porky amendments”: “The American people really don’t care.”

Here’s Schumer’s contact information.

UPDATE: Reader Kelly Jefferson writes: “Sen. Schumer’s DC phone number is busy, busy, busy. I recommend calling one of the district offices instead. Or maybe all of them. Hell hath no fury like a taxpayer scorned!”

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: RELABELING EARMARKS to get around Obama’s no-earmarks rule. “They may not be called earmarks, but lawmakers are looking to write legislative formulas into the package to ensure that their districts share in the wealth and won’t simply be at the mercy of Washington’s bureaucracy or the nation’s governors. House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) is leading the effort, personally lobbying Obama, top Obama adviser David Axelrod and committee chairmen on the issue last week. Clyburn said numerous Members, particularly freshmen, are concerned that they could sign on to a massive package with nothing to show for their districts. . . . The Majority Whip said he doesn’t fault Obama for trying to eliminate earmarks from the bill. “I know the politics of all this. I just think they’re wrong about it,” he said, adding later, ‘I love earmarks.'”

So will Obama let them get away with this — making it plain that his no-earmark promise was bogus — or will he try to impose some discipline?

If he lets them get away with this, it’ll be fair to characterize the “stimulus” bill as a big porkfest and not much more. Pigs at the trough — with Barack Obama as Hog-Slopper-in-Chief. Not an auspicious beginning . . . .

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Obama’s promise to eliminate earmarks didn’t come a moment too soon. Consider this example:

A controversial Postville meatpacking plant might have been forced out of business if U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin hadn’t stepped in four years ago to give it a multimillion-dollar boost with federal tax money.

The money, nearly $8 million, came from an environmental program from which Agriprocessors normally would have been disqualified. The grant and loan were used to build a sewage-treatment plant that serves only the meatpacker.

The environmental program, run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is designed to help small towns improve their sewage systems. The new sewage-treatment plant is technically owned by Postville, but it doesn’t serve the town’s residents. Department administrators say that fact usually would have prevented it from receiving money from the program. But Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, used his influence to exempt the project from those rules in 2004.

But now it’s the city that’s in deep doo-doo as the plant has gone bankrupt:

The USDA money included a $3.3 million grant and a $4.5 million, 20-year loan. The loan was made to the city, which agreed to stand as the plant’s owner so the project could qualify for the federal program. In return, Agriprocessors agreed to make $25,000 monthly payments on the loan.

A bankruptcy trustee who is temporarily running Agriprocessors said any new owner would be obligated to make the monthly payments toward the $4 million still owed on the federal loan. If the company goes out of business, however, the city would be on the hook for that amount.

Postville Mayor Robert Penrod said he’s worried about the drag the loan would present to the city. “It would be kind of disastrous,” he said.

Thanks, Tom!

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Obama on earmarks:

We are going to ban all earmarks, the process by which individual members insert pet projects without review. We will create an economic recovery oversight board made up of key administration officials and independent advisers to identify problems early and make sure we’re doing all that we can to solve it. We will put information about where money is being spent online so that the American people know exactly where their precious tax dollars are going and whether we are hitting our marks.

Plus this:

Democrats, attempting to defuse the politically nettlesome issue of earmarks, pledged to cut federal spending on the pet projects while making the process for doling out the funds more understandable to the public.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey and Senate counterpart Daniel Inouye said in a joint statement today they will cut funding for most types of earmarks in half from 2006 levels. The cuts would be smaller, about 12 percent according to committee earmark estimates, compared with the most recent levels.

The lawmakers also said they will begin requiring members of Congress to post online explanations of their individual earmark requests, which few lawmakers currently do.

That’s good, though I’d like to see deeper cuts, and it would be better if all of this stuff is posted on one central place, rather than scattered across 535 individual member websites. Not clear which it will be from the above. Not clear how the chairmen’s proposal will mesh with Obama’s plan, either. I’m glad to see some signs of movement here, though, and look forward to more details from Obama, perhaps as soon as today.

GIVING A NEW MEANING TO “PORKBUSTERS:” The return of “feral swine.” Well, if the economy goes down far enough, this is a problem that will take care of itself. . . .

MASSACHUSETTS PORK IN MEXICO: But is that a good thing, or a bad thing? A new episode of PorkBusters On Patrol.

UPDATE: Um, I think some people are missing the joke here. Try watching it again . . . .

PJTV: Here’s a free Flash version of my PJTV segment last night on PorkBusters, the bailout bill, and the economy. Guests are Rob “N.Z. Bear” Neppell, Andy Roth of the Club for Growth, and Bill Allison of the Sunlight Foundation.

KING EDWARD’S EXTRAVAGANT EARMARK: Another episode of PorkBusters on Patrol.


Also, Stephen Green is drunkblogging, and the back-injured Bruce Carroll is Vicodin-blogging.

UPDATE: Oh, what the hell. You liveblog too. I’m opening comments. Please try to wait a minute or two in between refreshing.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmm. Doesn’t seem to be working. Something in the site move seems to have screwed things up.

MORE: Extreme Mortman isn’t impressed with the debate so far: “Drunk blogging? Vicodin blogging? Heck, any instapundit readers up for Ambien blogging?”

And can we get rid of that lame Main Street / Wall Street dichotomy now that both of them have used it more than once? Please?

TigerHawk is liveblogging, too.

Speaking on behalf of PorkBusters, I’m glad to see the earmark issue getting so much attention.

But neither Obama nor McCain is on top of their game — they kind of sound like an SNL parody of themselves.

Jeff Garzik emails: “Both are floundering. The debate format is brilliant, primarily at drawing out the
soundbite-driven nature of both candidates.”

Heh: “I can’t stand this ‘main street’ rhetoric. I thought that there was no main street any more since Walmart spelled the death of it . . .”

More liveblogging from Jules Crittenden.

So is John Althouse Cohen, and it’s hard to argue with this observation:

“I’ve got a bracelet.” “I’ve got a bracelet too!” Are these serious adults running for president, or is this summer camp?

Yeah, McCain and Obama aren’t bad guys, but it’s hard to believe that these two are the best that a country of 300 million can produce.

More liveblogging at Gateway Pundit.

Wow, the debate isn’t even over and the McCain folks already have this video out.

Bob Owens: “Frankly, I think everyone, right and left, was expecting something far different than we saw here tonight.”

And reader Peter Sibley emails: “Strangest line of the night: From Obama: ‘I never objected to nuclear waste.'”

PORKBUSTERS ON PATROL visits Mississippi.


As the stock market plunged nearly 1,000 points in two days this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada was preoccupied with protecting billions of dollars worth of earmarks contained in a separate, unpublished committee report that got a one-sentence reference in a giant $612 billion defense bill. Reid engineered the 61-to-32 vote to limit debate on the bill, thus barring consideration of an amendment offered by Sen. Jim DeMint. The South Carolina Republican’s amendment would have deleted the reference to the committee report so that it would have to be considered separately. By leaving the language in the bill, the lawmakers were able to carry out one of their favorite maneuvers: Incorporating committee reports into omnibus bills so they can give billions of tax dollars to their cronies without recorded votes on specific spending measures. This is the same Harry Reid who with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised to “drain the swamp” of Republican corruption if voters would return the Democrats to the majority.

But Reid’s move was not just a slap at DeMint. Under pressure from a bipartisan coalition of fiscal watchdog groups, including Porkbusters, Club for Growth, Citizens Against Government Waste, National Taxpayers Union and Taxpayers for Common Sense, President George W. Bush signed an executive order last January that directed federal agencies to ignore earmarks that only appear in committee reports. If DeMint’s proposal had passed, the earmarks in the defense bill’s committee report would have been merely suggestions – not legally binding spending instructions. No wonder Reid made sure the South Carolinian’s amendment never made it to the Senate floor.

Remember the change that the Democrats promised in 2006? It hasn’t materialized, has it?

INSTA-POLL: Various references to an earmark-funded “PorkBusters Museum” have amused readers, so here’s a followup.

What would be the best feature of the $50 million PorkBusters Museum?
Audio-animatronic Trent Lott saying “I’m damn tired of those Porkbusters”
18-foot Bronze Statue of N.Z. Bear
Restaurant serving pulled pork and half-slabs
Interactive request-your-own earmark terminals
IMAX film on federal funding for the Jasperwood Water Feature
Lock of hair from Sen. Robert Byrd
The fact that the PorkBusters Museum will never be built free polls

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: An email from Senator Jim DeMint’s office:

The Senate will likely vote tomorrow on Sen. DeMint’s amendment to the Defense Authorization bill. The amendment strikes Section 1002 that incorporates all of the secret earmarks written in committee reports, giving them the force of law even though they are not in the bill, not debated, not voted on, and not signed into law.

This “incorporation language” must be stopped.

– It effectively reverses the President’s Executive Order that Porkbusters pushed him to issue, which aims to stop secret, non-legislative earmarks dead in their tracks.

– It forces agencies to make funding decisions based on the instructions they get from committee staff who author these reports rather than on merit.

– It prevents Congress from debating and voting on earmarks, which is the only true form of transparency and accountability.

– It sets a dangerous precedent that will be repeated if it is not challenged and stopped.

Please also note that the GOP earmark reform task force created by Sen. McConnell recommended that all earmarks be written into our bills. That’s what the Constitution requires. The vote tomorrow on DeMint’s amendment will test Republican support for this principle.

If the amendment is adopted, the earmarks in the reports will become what Sen. Durbin famously described as just a “note to your sister” and will not be legally binding. Instead, government agencies will be able to spend these taxpayer funds on true national priorities, not special interest politics.

Sounds like a bad idea to me. If you have feelings on the subject, you might want to let your Senators know.

SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT THE WSJ’S STORY on alleged Palin earmarks. Related post here.

Meanwhile, I was watching Bill Whittle on Pajamas TV talking about this, and he was very strongly making the point that it’s a very different thing for a Governor to be accepting earmarks than it is for a Senator to be enacting them. I think that’s a valid point as far as it goes, but it has its limits. For example, if I were really lobbying my Senators for $50 million in earmarked funding to build the PorkBusters Museum in Knoxville, people might reasonably question the depth of my commitment to porkbusting, notwithstanding that I’m not a Senator. It’s not at all clear that Sarah Palin was doing anything like that, but if she were, it would undercut claims that she’s always exhibited an unwavering commitment to fighting earmarks.

THE WORLD’S MOST EXPENSIVE BUS STOP. The first in a series of grassroots PorkBusters videos hosted by Eyeblast TV. Send ’em yours!

UH OH: “This does not look good. Lots and lots of earmarks requested by Gov. Palin, on an Obama scale, which is saying something.” Reading the actual story, though, it’s not clear whether they’re actually earmarks — that is, things that bypass the normal appropriations process — or not. If they are, then it does look bad, and it makes the McCain campaign’s focus on the issue a big mistake.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

Much as we’re now discussing the true definition of the Bush Doctrine, I think we need some clarity on the definition of earmarks.

You used a definition in a recent comment: ” earmarks — that is, things that bypass the normal appropriations process.” That bears emphasis and frequent repetition. No one is objecting to federal funding for various and sundry state and local projects – at least not in this context. It’s the unexamined, last-minute, “do-me-a-favor” projects that taxpayers don’t like. But, as many catch phrases do, the term “earmarks” is becoming something like Vizzini’s “inconceivable.” It may no longer mean what you think it means.

Yes, I’ve used the Citizens Against Government Waste definition, which is that it bypasses the normal appropriations procedures. From the WSJ article, it’s hard to tell how it fits — they talk about specific appropriations, which may or may not be “earmarks.” Here are the CAGW criteria.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Governors Cannot Earmark.

Well, true. But they can request earmarks. Of course, so can I. Hmm . . . how about $50M to build the PorkBusters Museum in Knoxville?

Don’t hold your breath. . . .

MICKEY KAUS says that Obama campaign manager David Plouffe is “whistling past the graveyard” on polling numbers. I don’t know if that’s right — I think that everyone, including me, expected Obama to be polling better at this point. The Bush Administration is unpopular, and the Republican Congress — witness Ted Stevens’ primary win — has been dreadful. Given that, it’s surprising that things are in a statistical tie.

On the other hand, elections are won by those who show up, and I think Plouffe is right that Democratic constituencies have more “fire in the belly” than Republican constituencies. What’ll be interesting is to see if Obama can keep Republicans from getting negative enough about his prospects to motivate them, while keeping Democrats motivated enough to sustain that edge — while McCain tries to do the opposite, of course. I suspect that turnout will be the deciding factor here, and reports seem to suggest that the Democrats have a better ground game. Will that be true? Stay tuned, I guess.

UPDATE: Reader David Ragsdale sends a correction:

Um…it’s actually a Democratic Congress now.

Or maybe you meant to write “The Republicans in Congress” …but given that it’s only been in the past few weeks that at least 50% of Americans know that the Democrats control Congress you should be more clear.

Yeah, I really meant the Republican delegation in Congress. I stand corrected.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Jonathan Limebrook emails:

I hate pork nearly as much as you do, but I think you condemn Ted Stevens, and with him the politics of Alaska, without truly understanding the relationship between Alaskans and the federal government. The state is virtually owned by the federal government– I believe Nevada is the only state with more federal ownership– and Alaskans are pretty inured to having the feds run roughshod over them. I lived there from 1974 to 1984. The most salient event in turning me from a liberal into a libertarian was when James Earl Carter, unhappy with the state’s land claims after the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, high-handedly turned vast swaths of the state into national monuments to punish Mike Gravel for his recalcitrance in accepting the fiats of an imperial government.

Alaskans are smart enough to know that, ignored as an electorate, they have to keep returning their representatives to Congress so that their seniority will eventually avail Alaskans of some political clout. If Stevens appears to you to be a dinosaur, well, he is, but there is method in his longevity. When the federal government, under the sway of Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, routinely and without a second thought restricts the livelihoods of Alaskans in their own home, they willl fight back in the onlly way available to them. Alaskans feel that every dime they can wring out of the federal government is theirs by right.

Which brings us to the infamous “bridge to nowhere” whose $250 million price tag shocks you so. By the way, federal spending in Tennesee is over four times that on food stamps alone ( Bridges are expensive to build, and especially so in Alaska when the rust belt is not just up the river. As for it being a bridge to nowhere, did it ever occur to you that after it was built, it would be a bridge to somewhere? That little island would have become a place people where could live and without having to take their kids to school by boat in a snowstorm.

Thanks for letting me have my say.

You’re welcome, but I still think the arrogance and entitlement of Ted Stevens is both disgraceful in itself, and a blot on the honor of the Republicans. Trent Lott, after saying he was “damn tired” of the Porkbusters effort, has finally come around on the pork issue. Stevens hasn’t.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: IF HE’D FIGURED THIS OUT FIVE YEARS AGO — or even three years ago, when PorkBusters started — the G.O.P. might still be a majority party. Trent Lott on pork-barrel spending:

Lott was known as one of the “Princes of Pork” while he was in Congress for his ability to bring home the bacon to Mississippi and he said that also caused some friction with McCain. . . .

Then Lott made a couple of admissions I found startling.

“But you know what, in my heart I knew he was right,” he said of his pork barrel ways. That’s no way to do business, we shouldn’t be doing all that earmarking — it got completely out of control.

“It got out of control with Republicans and that’s why we are being punished a little bit,” he added. “Because we forgot how we got there, what we believed in, the principles that after 30 years put us in the majority, gave us the White House, the congress, the senate, the house. And then we ran out of ideas… “

You don’t say.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Going after the porkers, in the WSJ:

An albatross Republicans must haul around this year is that voters no longer clearly see them as the party best able to control government spending and taxes. GOP pork-barrel kings such as Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young are a big reason. Now allegations of corruption are swirling around both men as they face stiff challenges in Alaska’s Aug. 26 Republican primary.

Messrs. Stevens and Young have done enormous damage nationally to the Republican brand. They were champions of the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere,” a $223 million span to Gravina Island with 50 people on it, that became the butt of late-night comedians. But the jokes have been replaced with anger: Mr. Stevens was indicted last month on seven felony counts of lying about $250,000 in gifts he received from the head of the oil services company VECO, Bill Allen, who was seeking earmarks from the senator. Mr. Young has spent over $1 million in legal fees fighting a federal investigation of his ties to VECO. . . . Indeed, it was the power of the purse that Messrs. Stevens and Young wielded for so long that helped entrench the earmark culture among Congressional Republicans. Few dared risk their wrath. When he became chairman of the Appropriations Committee in 1997, Mr. Stevens proclaimed, “I’m a mean, miserable SOB.” When his “Bridge to Nowhere” was challenged in 2005, Mr. Stevens warned fellow senators “if we start cutting funding for individual projects, your project may be next.”

The real damage to the Republican brand has been the national party’s refusal to ease these guys out. They deserve to lose big in the primary. If they don’t, the Republicans deserve to lose the seats.


porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: A new PorkBusters project, undertaken by Eyeblast TV, with a chance to point out pork in your own area on video:

When the “bridge to nowhere” was everywhere in the news two years ago, Americans for Prosperity hit the road on an “Ending Earmarks Express” tour.

The most powerful report from AFP’s journey came in Ketchikan, Alaska, when the group revealed in a two-minute video just how foolish pork-barrel spending can get. The story showed Americans exactly where the bridge to nowhere, a boondoggle backed by the likes of just-indicted Sen. Ted Stevens, was going to be built — to the tune of $223 million of your money.

Congress reluctantly rescinded funding for the bridge to nowhere, but greased pigs continue to run free, and spend freely, in the corridors on Capitol Hill. In fiscal 2008, Citizens Against Government Waste unearthed nearly 12,000 examples of pork in federal spending bills. The projects cost the taxpayers $17.2 billion — and too many Americans are clueless about where the money went or which lawmakers are to blame for the wasteful spending.

With the help of citizen journalists all across America, and the Porkbusters coalition hope to change that. We’re under no illusion that we can utterly quench lawmakers’ insatiable appetite for pork. But we can expose them for the oinkers they are while they feast at the taxpayers’ trough.

How will we do that? Three words: “Porkbusters On Patrol.” That’s what Eyeblast and Porkbusters are calling the networked journalism project we are announcing today.

“Porkbusters On Patrol” combines the concept of AFP’s earmarks tour with the vision that Instapundit Glenn Reynolds shared in his book “An Army Of Davids.” The goal is to equip an army of citizen reporters with pocket camcorders to produce an ongoing series of on-site video stories about Congress’ pork-barreling ways.

Follow the link for more.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: I can’t say that I’m surprised to hear this: Voters Want Less Pork, Even in Their Own District.

Conducted in late June, the poll surveyed 800 voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46%. Likely voters were asked the following question: “All things being equal, for whom would you be more likely to vote for the U.S. Congress: 1) A candidate who wants to cut overall federal spending, even if that includes cutting some money that would come to your district or 2) A candidate who wants to increase overall spending on federal programs, as long as more federal spending and projects come to your district?”

The results were unambiguous. Fifty-four percent of general election voters chose the frugal candidate, compared with only 29% who chose the profligate candidate. Republicans overwhelming favor less federal spending, 72% to 17%, with independents close behind at 61%. Only Democrats prefer more federal spending, but only by a plurality. Thirty-six percent of Democrats chose the more fiscally conservative candidate, with 42% choosing the alternative. . . . Voters across America don’t see their elected officials “listening” and “providing.” Instead they see spending that is wasteful, prone to corruption, arbitrary and inefficient.

In particular, the connection between earmarks and corruption — and the use of earmarks to buy votes for big wasteful spending bills — means that the damage done by profligate earmarking is much greater than the earmark price tag alone suggests.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Another earmark moratorium fight?

House conservatives are renewing their fight to unilaterally ban earmarks for a year within the Republican Party. House GOP leadership has also renewed their own version of an earmark ban, but it’s woefully diluted — it is contingent on Democrats playing along. Frankly, that’s too little, too late.

But thanks to Jeb Hensarling, Jeff Flake, and the other RSC members who are pushing for an earmark ban now, I’m confident that we’ll see a moratorium before the election. I’ve been told that they have the votes needed (50) to receive a conference-wide vote. This will force leadership to make a decision they would rather avoid. But pragmatically, rank-and-file members shouldn’t sweat. Earmarking is a wonderful election issue. Voters of all stripes hate pork-barrel spending. And since the FY09 budget, which is the vehicle that contains most earmarks, will probably be pushed into next year, very little will be lost (I know, I know, this is an awful argument, but it works).

Not all Republicans are committed to rebuilding their brand of less government and more economic liberty, but a unilateral ban on earmarks would dramatically accelerate their path to redemption. They need to make the hard decision.

Indeed they do.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: All about the earmark game:

It’s common for lawmakers to ask for many, many more earmarks than they can possibly get in order to go to bat for as many constituents as possible. The real list, the one that tells which projects a lawmaker wants most, is far more secret.

Freshman Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-Kan., for example, requested 66 earmarks totaling about $172 million in the upcoming appropriations round. Last year, Boyda obtained $20.7 million in solo earmarks, along with almost $18 million more that she requested with other lawmakers.

Hiring lobbyists helps. They know which buttons to push, and have easier access to key lawmakers on the Appropriations committees and their aides. Lobbyists ride herd on earmarks in ways that out-of-town officials and executives can’t.

The flip side is that lobbyists cost money. The Rochester Institute of Technology, for example, pays $280,000 a year to The National Group, a Washington lobbying firm, to seek earmarks. Over 15 years, the firm says it has helped RIT obtain $60 million for research and education projects.

Read the whole thing. And there’s more here:

The practice of decorating legislation with billions of dollars in pet projects and federal contracts is still thriving on Capitol Hill — despite public outrage that helped flip control of Congress two years ago.

More than 11,000 of those “earmarks,” worth nearly $15 billion in all, were slipped into legislation telling the government where to spend taxpayers’ money this year, keeping the issue at the center of Washington’s culture of money, influence and politics. Now comes an election-year encore. . . .

Millions of the dollars support lobbying firms that help companies, universities, local governments and others secure what critics like Republican presidential candidate John McCain call pork-barrel spending. The law forbids using federal grants to lobby, but lobbyists do charge clients fees that often equal 10 percent of the largesse.

Earmark winners and their lobbyists often reward their benefactors with campaign contributions. For many members of Congress, especially those on the Appropriations committees, such as Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., campaign donations from earmark-seeking lobbyists and corporate executives are the core of their fundraising.

Rules forbid lawmakers from raising campaign funds from congressional offices, but members and their aides sometimes find ways to skirt them.

Read this one, too.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: This sounds promising.

The Associated Press Managing Editors (APME) and some 25 daily papers have teamed up with AP’s Washington bureau for an unusual joint project that investigates congressional earmarks.

The project, set to be unveiled this weekend, includes a four-story package produced by the AP and a congressional earmarks database that will be available to all AP members.

The package, centered on a 2,200-word story, includes content supplied by 25 daily newspapers that have been reporting on the earmarks of their local congressional delegations since April. Earmarks are those federal budget items procured by local representatives specifically for local entities.

Feel free to suggest that your local paper get involved.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Friends of the earmark make themselves heard:

The hottest document on Capitol Hill is an anonymous six-page white paper that defends, of all things, earmarks — those much-maligned home-state projects that lawmakers shoehorn into spending bills.

Doesn’t it say a lot that they’re afraid to make themselves heard, except . . . anyonymously?

A growing number of politicians have decided to just say no to earmarks. Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has vowed to veto any legislation that contains “pork-barrel spending.” And several Democrats, including Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif.), have promised not to request earmarks anymore.

The trend worries many lobbyists (and some lawmakers), and they are beginning to fight back — in other words, to lobby. Although a publicist initially told the Washington Post otherwise, the Ferguson Group acknowledges that it helped persuade three mayors whose cities it represents to praise earmarks in a Post op-ed Saturday.

But the widely read white paper — “The Fairness of Congressional Earmarking in American Democracy” — is the biggest counterattack so far. The only question: Who wrote it?

My guess was that it was written by some lapper-at-the-public-trough, and sure enough, it turns out I’m right.

UPDATE: Reader John Schwab makes an excellent point:

I think you should be clearer in your response to that white paper. it’s a straw man – I don’t know of anyone who would say that earmarks can serve no purpose whatsoever. It’s out-of-control anonymous earmarks that must be eliminated, especially those that double back to benefit a congressman’s family. Indeed, if earmark abuse is not addressed Congress may lose the power to use earmarks that make sense.

Don’t let them re-frame the debate. If an earmark is such a good idea why won’t they take credit for authoring it?

Heck, they won’t even put their names on the memos defending them.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: When earmarks turn criminal:

The Senate moved yesterday toward asking the Justice Department for a criminal investigation of a $10 million legislative earmark whose provisions were mysteriously altered after Congress gave final approval to a huge 2005 highway funding bill.

In what may become the first formal request from Congress for a criminal inquiry into one of its own special projects, top Senate Democrats and Republicans have endorsed taking action in connection with the earmark that Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), former chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, inserted into the legislation. . . .

Young’s staff acknowledged yesterday that aides “corrected” the earmark just before it went to the White House for President Bush’s signature, specifying that the money would go to a proposed highway interchange project on Interstate 75 near Naples, Fla. Young says the project was entirely worthy of an earmark and he welcomes any inquiry, a spokeswoman said.

This is bad enough in itself, but I think it’s probably the tip of the iceberg. The entitlement mentality widespread on the Hill, combined with decades of no real accountability, makes this kind of thing seem perfectly reasonable, I suspect.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Citizens Against Government Waste has released the 2008 Congressional Pig Book, and it’s full of juicy, greasy, goodness. Here’s a summary:

Some of the biggest pork projects, according to the group, include a Lobster Institute; the Rocky Flats, Colorado, Cold War Museum; and the First Tee, a program to build young people’s character through golf.

Members of Congress requested funds for all these pet projects and thousands of others last year, according to the latest copy of the annual “Pig Book” released by Citizens Against Government Waste.

“Congress stuffed 11,610 projects” worth $17.2 billion into a dozen spending bills, the group said in the report released Wednesday.

The “Pig Book” names dozens of what the citizens group considers the most egregious porkers, the lawmakers who funnel money to projects on their home turf.

Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, requested the most money, $892.2 million, according to the group. . . .

“There were several candidates for the Narcissist Award,” Tom Schatz, the president of the group said.

“But this one went to House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel for the Charles Rangel Public Service Center at the City College of New York — $1,950,000 (to a project) that he named after himself.”

Rangel, a Democrat from New York, said last summer he was “honored that City College chose to have my name attached to what is an important project, not just for the residents of my congressional district, but for New York City and this nation.”

A call to Rangel’s office wasn’t immediately returned.

Both parties came in for criticism, with the Democrats who control both houses of Congress topping the Republicans in spending.

Read the whole thing(s) — and ask your Senators and Representative if they’ll take the Earmark Moratorium pledge.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Lawmakers tight-lipped on pet projects.

Congressional budget leaders are sifting through tens of thousands of requests submitted this week by House members seeking taxpayer money for projects back home.

These earmark requests are conducted in secret, reaching the light of day only when they are likely to get funded.

But a growing group of lawmakers and the three major presidential contenders are making earmark reform a campaign issue. More than 40 members of Congress have rejected these parochial projects outright, while at least 66 are voluntarily divulging what earmarks they are fighting for.

More, please. And consider contacting your own representatives and finding out whether they plan to disclose their earmark requests. If you hear anything interesting, let me know and I’ll post it.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Jacob Sullum writes:

On Friday March 21, a House Appropriations Committee Web site was so overwhelmed by legislators’ wish lists that it crashed, forcing the committee to extend the deadline for earmark requests until Monday. Most members of Congress seem to think the problem with earmarks is like the problem with the committee’s server: not any particular person’s demands, just all of them together. . . .

On the face of it, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain, and the two remaining contenders for the Democratic nomination, Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, take a different view: All three supported a one-year moratorium on earmarks that the Senate recently rejected by a wide margin. But only Mr. McCain has taken a principled stand against the pet projects that legislators love to slip into spending bills.

“We Republicans came to power in 1994 to change government,” Mr. McCain told the Riverside, Calif., Press Enterprise last year, “and the government changed us. That’s why we lost the election: We began to value power over principle.”

Well, he’s got that right.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Porkers of the Month:

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) named all 71 senators who voted against a one-year earmark moratorium March Porkers of the Month. The amendment to the fiscal year 2009 Budget Resolution was offered by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and had fourteen bipartisan co-sponsors including the support of all three presidential candidates.

“King of Pork” Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.) dismissed the earmark ban saying, “The idea that an all-knowing, all-powerful executive bureaucracy is more trustworthy than the elected representatives of the people when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars challenges the most basic tenet of our political system.”

In a similar vein, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) opposed the ban as “unrealistic” and even went so far as to erroneously claim that earmarking “has been going in this country for 230-some-odd years,” and that “The Founding Fathers would be cringing to hear people talking about eliminating earmarks.”

There is a proper system for projects to be vetted by agencies (the “all-knowing, all-powerful” bureaucrats) that’s fallen by the wayside. Congress did not earmark extensively until the 1980s. Instead, Congress would fund general grant programs and let federal and state agencies select individual recipients through a competitive process or formula. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees named specific projects only when they had been vetted and approved by authorizing committees. Members of Congress with local concerns would lobby the president and federal agencies for consideration. The process was aimed at preventing abuse and allocating resources on the basis of merit and need.

Today, Appropriations Committee members arbitrarily pick winners and losers by earmarking funds for specific recipients.

It’s not only wasteful, but it contributes — significantly — to corruption.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Cutting out the cardinals:

Senior Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee claim that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has left them out of discussions about a moratorium on earmarks, marking a departure from the inclusive leadership style she has employed for much of her reign.

As some appropriators grumbled, Democrats on Tuesday inched closer to an earmark moratorium, a move that would infuriate many appropriators.

“It’s going to happen,” said an irritated Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), a senior member of the Appropriations Committee. Others were more circumspect.

I hope his irritation is justified.

UPDATE: Justin Higgins thinks I’m too pro-Democrat on this issue: “I can’t help but feel that your coverage on earmarks is one-sided, and that you’re actually under-representing some of the positive moves folks like John Boehner are making. He blogged about earmarks on my site and made the case clear that they welcome Pelosi and the Dems on an earmark moratorium, but they were pushing the issue first.” Um, okay.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Gregory Hill emails: “The Dems are in charge right now, so they’re the ones making policy. The Republicans had their chance; and blew it in a huge way. That’s why they’re not in charge anymore. If earmark reform was such a big deal to them, then why didn’t they make a big deal of it when they had a chance to make a difference?” Yeah, I seem to remember asking them that a time or two.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Earmark Nation:

With all the talk about how Mr. McCain needs to unify his party, lost has been the question of whether some people will let him. Washington Republicans know he’s their best shot at retaining the White House. Yet many remain ambivalent about him — not because they question his conservatism, but out of resentment that he may get in the way of their earmarks.

This has resulted in a behind-the-scenes brawl, as spend-happy Republicans resist efforts by wiser heads to fall in behind Mr. McCain’s anti-earmark message. At best, the spenders risk an embarrassing pummeling by their own nominee that could hurt them in their own re-election campaigns. At worst, they could undercut one of Mr. McCain’s more persuasive messages. . . . Republicans have a choice. They can unite behind the feisty Mr. McCain, and take a position that is true to their small-government principles, popular with the public and a smart political move. Or they can hurt themselves, and possibly their nominee, by sticking with the lard.

The GOP delegation has shown that it would rather stuff its pockets than retain the majority in Congress. It’s quite likely that it would rather stuff its pockets than see the GOP take the Presidency, too.


Rep. John Murtha is hosting a gala dinner tonight at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Pentagon City for defense industry lobbyists who have received and who hope to receive millions of tax dollars via earmarks sponsored by the Pennsylvania Democrat. . . . .

But Murtha’s porkfest is not going unnoticed. Three conservative citizen activist groups and a conservative blog that are active in the anti-earmark Porkbusters movement are gathering protesters, posters and pigs and plan to crash the Murtha pork bash.

Heh. Taking pigs to this thing is like coal to Newcastle. But this is good:

The protesters are meeting at 5:30 p.m. at the top of the Pentagon City Metrorail station outside the Ritz-Carlton Hotel at 1250 South Hayes St. in Arlington. Organizers say photographs of attendees will be taken and posted on the Internet.

Name ’em and shame ’em.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: The earmark fight is heading to the Senate:

Hoping to bring the House fight over earmark reform to the Senate, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) will propose a full one-year moratorium on considering bills with earmarks as part of the fiscal 2009 budget resolution, the lawmaker said Monday.

DeMint, who will discuss the moratorium during today’s weekly GOP luncheon, said he believes his proposal could create the political room needed to bring reform to the process. . . .

DeMint said he will offer the moratorium as an amendment to the budget resolution, which is expected to come up the week before Congress breaks for the Easter recess March 14. The language, which if passed would be binding on the Senate, would make any legislation including an earmark out of order for Senate floor consideration. DeMint’s proposal will use the definition of an earmark included in S. 1, the Senate ethics bill, and would cover both appropriations measures and authorization bills.

Bring it on.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: The Examiner weighs in with an editorial:

Whenever a field goal kicker puts the football way off to the right or left of the goal post, it’s called a “shank.” House Minority Leader John Boehner and his colleagues among the GOP leadership shanked one this week on the earmarks issue. A GOP slot opened up on the House Appropriations Committee, which signs off on the pet projects of lawmakers. If Boehner and company were serious about ending the earmark culture, which has badly undermined the credibility of Congress, they had a perfect man to fill the vacancy: Jeff Flake of Arizona. He has introduced more amendments to strike earmarks than any other member of the House, and putting him on the appropriations panel would have shown that the GOP was no longer just talking about earmark reform. Instead, Boehner and company settled on Rep. Jo Bonner of Alabama.

Bonner gets high marks for personal integrity and he certainly knows how the Appropriations panel works, having served as chief of staff to Rep. Sonny Callahan, who for many years was a powerful member of the committee. And Bonner has pledged support for the earmarks moratorium being pushed by the House GOP leadership. The problem is that Bonner’s voting record, as tabulated by the National Taxpayers Union, puts him among such stellar proponents of earmark politics as House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Louisiana’s “Dollar Bill” Jefferson. It’s all well and good for Bonner to talk about the need for earmark reform, but his voting record and the invitation to earmark applicants on his official web site tell a different story. It might be otherwise if Bonner’s appointment were accompanied by a declaration that he will no longer seek earmarks for any purpose, but no such statement was heard.

Read the whole thing.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Here’s more on the Bonner appointment:

In 1995, when Republicans took control of Congress, they were full of promises of fiscal responsibility. Dick Armey, who became House majority leader that year, says they practiced spending restraint “with very serious rigor”–and discretionary spending decreased from $609.2 billion in 1995 to $581 billion in 1998 in constant dollars. But House Appropriations chairman Bob Livingston soon refused to work with the fiscal-restraint proponent Armey, who was in charge of floor scheduling. At that point, in Armey’s telling, “discipline broke down,” and discretionary spending began to rise. It hasn’t stopped since. In 2006, total discretionary spending, adjusted for inflation, reached $823.5 billion.

The House wasn’t the only culprit in the demise of Republican spending restraint. Other players included the Republican Senate (which some policy analysts say is even more extravagant than the House), a Democratic president, and a Republican president with spending initiatives of their own. Add to that the new homeland-security initiatives after 9/11, two wars, Hurricane Katrina, and the allure of earmarks, and all attempts at spending restraint went out the door. In 2006, the party paid dearly at the polls. . . .

Chris Edwards, director of tax policy at the Cato Institute, says that until the system is reformed, earmarking will go on unrestrained, “regardless of who is in power.” Democrats are continuing the Republicans’ policy of directing earmarks to vulnerable members. Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, says that by not appointing Flake to the committee, Republicans missed an opportunity to make a “strong statement” about earmark reform. Jo Bonner supported the moratorium–but his own earmarks totaled nearly $28 million this year.

Reform-minded policy analysts agree that Republicans should enact a unilateral earmark moratorium and appoint Flake-types to the Appropriations committee in 2009, when six Republican members will retire. For now, though, Republicans will continue to pork it up at least until Election Day.

Sometimes I think they’d rather be a porky minority than a porkless majority. And here’s more from Bonner’s home state:

For the current fiscal year, Flake did not receive any money for such “earmarked” endeavors, according to a newly released rundown from Taxpayers for Common Sense. Working with Alabama’s two senators, Bonner obtained almost $17.3 million for 14 projects, the tally shows.

Bonner was on his way back to Mobile late Thursday afternoon and not available for comment, spokeswoman Nancy Wall said.

But in his news release, he underscored his support for efforts to overhaul the current earmarking process, which critics say is riddled with waste and favoritism.

He’s talking the talk. Will he walk the walk? And James Joyner has some further thoughts:

It’s very interesting that the blogs have become a sufficiently important factor in the process to at least have the leadership wary. Bloggers are routinely solicited by the public relations outreach efforts of the Congress and the parties and inclusion on conference calls on the like has become routine in recent years.

But internal politics are likely always going to trump external pressures from commentators.

Yep. But at least we can make the choices clear. Joyner also comments, on Jeff Flake: “I’d note some small irony in the conservative blogosphere championing a cantankerous fiscal conservative from Arizona perceived by his colleagues as insufficient loyal to the team.” Heh.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: The Bonner appointment blowback makes the Washington Post:

Anti-earmark crusader Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) lost his bid for a seat on the House Appropriations Committee Thursday, and the conservative blogosphere is not happy about it.

This Red State post was typical of the reaction. Under the heading, “House Republicans Aren’t Serious About Earmark Reform,” blogger Bluey wrote, “Just when it appeared House Republicans had turned the corner on earmark reform, party leaders did the unthinkable.”

The seat instead went to Alabama Rep. Jo Bonner (R), a former Appropriations staffer who beat a field that included Flake, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) and a host of other aspirants that included one genuinely vulnerable GOP member, Rep. Dave Reichert (Wash.). . . .

Republican leaders know that Flake is a cause célèbre in the blogosphere. They knew passing him over would prompt a backlash. But while they want to keep hammering away on the earmarks issue, they simply were not going to reward Flake for what they perceive to be insufficient loyalty to the team.

House Republicans’ unwillingness to commit to a party-wide moratorium on earmarks demonstrated that their crusade does have its limits, and yesterday’s move reaffirmed that fact.

Indeed it did.

UPDATE: The Hill: Booted from the PorkBusters list:

Angered by the decision of Republican leaders to not give earmark foe Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) a coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee, a coalition of fiscal conservative groups is kicking the GOP leadership’s representative off its mailing list.

“At the request of several key groups in the porkbusting coalition, I have decided to eject the House GOP leadership’s representative, Bill Greene, from the Coalition mailing list,” said blogger Rob Neppell. The Porkbusters coalition is made up of conservative groups, such as the Club for Growth, the Heritage Foundation and the National Taxpayer’s Union, and bloggers.

The Porkbusters coalition also includes the Sunlight Foundation, and a bunch of lefties associated therewith.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: House Republicans aren’t serious about earmark reform:

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.

Ouch. The New Boss looks a lot like the old Boss.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: We’ve had some progress on pork, with Henry Waxman joining the G.O.P. moratorium, but for other members of Congress it’s business as usual:

The window for Congressional earmarks is open once again. Lawmakers from both parties are inviting constituents and lobbyists to recommend pet projects that could be financed by the federal government as the 2008 earmark season gets under way. . . .

Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan budget watchdog, issued a report on Wednesday that showed Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York had obtained $342 million in earmarks last year, nearly four times as much as the total for Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Mr. McCain of Arizona, a fierce critic of earmarks, did not obtain any because “he did not request any,” said Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense.

In its report, the group said that Representative John P. Murtha, Democrat of Pennsylvania, obtained $176 million in earmarks — more than any other House member except Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi, who is now a senator.

Business as usual.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Henry Waxman swears off earmarks this year:

This pesky earmark issue just won’t go away.

After members of the majority had all but ignored Republican calls for a one-year moratorium on lawmaker-requested projects, one prominent Demorcrat stoked those dying embers on Tuesday; Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry A. Waxman (Calif.) issued a released pledging not to request special projects in any of the upcoming spending bills this year. And he recommended his colleagues to do the same.

“We have a problem in Congress,” Waxman said. “Congressional spending through earmarks is out of control.”

He’s right. And this puts pressure on the G.O.P. to stay serious on this issue.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: A look at where the candidates stand on earmarks:

John McCain abhors them. Hillary Rodham Clinton embraces them. Barack Obama does a little of both.

The leading contenders for president cover the spectrum in their attitudes toward political pork known as earmarks.

In recent years, earmarks have become mired in controversy and scandal — from a $220 million earmark for a “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska to the corruption convictions of lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Rep. Duke Cunningham. Still, members of Congress continue to parcel them out, arguing that part of their job is to bring federal dollars back to their states.

Legions of lobbyists coax lawmakers each year to drop thousands of earmarks for their clients into spending bills with little to no scrutiny or debate. The 2008 defense bill bulged with more than 2,100 earmarks, costing $8 billion, according to the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

The use of earmarks and the powerful influence of lobbyists on Congress have been hotly debated in the presidential race. As that debate has continued, the top presidential candidates dealt with earmarks as senators in starkly different fashion from each other.

In the defense bill, for example, The Seattle Times found that Clinton sponsored 66 earmarks totaling $150 million. Obama sponsored six earmarks totaling $34 million; all were for nonprofit organizations. McCain didn’t ask for any earmarks this year.

Read the whole thing.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: There’s going to be a big earmark vote in the House tomorrow:

Disappointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) rejection of House Republican calls for an immediate moratorium on all taxpayer-funded earmarks, House Republicans will force a vote on the issue tomorrow, House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) announced this afternoon. The leaders said House Republicans will force the earmark reform vote as a higher education authorization bill comes to the floor containing what many argue is a taxpayer-funded slush fund for colleges and universities. . . .

Three GOP members of the House Appropriations Committee — Reps. Jack Kingston of Georgia, Frank Wolf of Virginia and Zack Wamp of Tennessee — have authored legislation that would bring the earmark process to a halt and establish a panel to identify ways to permanently change the spending process. Kingston-Wolf-Wamp has been cosponsored by 129 House Republicans, including the entire House Republican leadership team. However, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who as leader of the Democrat-controlled House has the power to shut down the chamber’s earmarking process immediately, declined to support the measure or the proposed moratorium.

It’ll be interesting to see how the vote goes.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Hillary Clinton and John McCain on earmarks:

In his State of the Union address Monday, reinvigorated public discussion of earmarks — lawmakers’ specific spending items inserted into appropriations bills. While fiscal conservatives in Washington are skeptical about Bush’s ability to do much on the issue, the president may be helping his party by bringing up this issue, which touched on fiscal conservatism, government transparency and political corruption.

Earmarks, and their use of tools of corruption, could play a large role in the 2008 presidential contest if the current front-runners succeed in grabbing their respective parties’ nominations. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is a leading opponent of pork and one of the only lawmakers to forswear earmarks, while Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is Congress’ leading porker.

Clinton’s earmarking is not merely offensive to procedural purists who demand spending go through standard channels. It also is not merely a transgression against fiscal conservatism. Clinton’s earmarks often directly benefit specific corporations and businessmen, who, in turn, make large contributions to her campaign. This “pay-to-play” earmarking, as one left-leaning budget watchdog group put it, highlights the truly dirty side of earmarks.



I’ve been tracking the power of the blog here at Beltway Blogroll since June 2005, and as my days at National Journal come to a close this week, I can say unequivocally that Porkbusters is the most successful demonstration I have seen of that influence. It is also the one with the greatest staying power.

It’s true that pork is still a problem and will remain one as long as Americans choose to elect panderers rather than statesmen. As I noted in November 2005, it’s next to impossible to catch the greased pig in Congress.

But you simply can’t deny that pork is a prominent policy issue now because of Porkbusters. Until bloggers across the political spectrum started ranting about pork after Hurricane Katrina, nobody outside of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, television broadcaster John Stossel and groups like Citizens Against Government Waste seemed to care — and all of their outrage went unheard by Washington’s powerbrokers.

Now the president is tackling the issue in the State of the Union. That is blog power, my friends.

We just need to keep after them on this issue.

OKAY, I HAVE TO GLOAT JUST A BIT: Bush led off with earmarks. His actions aren’t as bold as I’d like, but still — back in 2005 when PorkBusters started, nobody in Washington cared and members of Congress were bragging about pork. Now the State of the Union leads of with an attack on earmarks, to thundering applause. Yeah, a lot of it’s a sham. But hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, and this kind of hypocrisy indicates that the anti-earmark momentum is growing.

UPDATE: Liveblogging the SOTU here. Also here. For the full prepared text of Bush’s speech, click “read more.”

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Bush announces the order:

On Tuesday, President Bush will issue an Executive Order directing Federal agencies to ignore any future earmark that is not voted on and included in a law approved by Congress. This will effectively end the common practice of concealing earmarks in so-called report language instead of placing them in the actual text of the bill. This means earmarks will be subject to votes, which will better expose them to the light of day and help constrain excessive and unjustified spending.

The Executive Order will provide that with regard to all future appropriations laws and other legislation enacted into law, executive agencies will not commit, obligate, or expend funds on the basis of earmarks from any non-statutory source, including requests included in congressional committee reports or other congressional documents, or communications from or on behalf of Members of Congress, or any other non-statutory source, except when required by law, or when an agency itself decides that a project or other transaction has merit under statutory criteria or other merit-based decision-making.

Good for him. If he’d done this in 2005, of course, the GOP might have kept its majority. But this is still the right thing to do.

UPDATE: Mark Tapscott calls it an empty gesture because it applies only to future bills. Not quite empty, but not enough.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: A 12-step program for Earmark Withdrawal? This sounds promising:

As every reformed addict knows, the road to recovery is long and hard. So it is for Republicans who became addicted to spending “earmarks” while running Congress, lost their majority in large part because of it, and are now struggling with mixed results to dry out.

Their latest halting effort in what appears to be at least a 12-step recovery plan will come tonight, when President Bush uses his State of the Union address to lay down his toughest anti-earmarking pledge to date. We’re told he will tell Congress that he will veto any fiscal 2009 spending bill that doesn’t cut earmarks in half from 2008 levels. He will also report that he is issuing a Presidential order informing executive departments that from now on they should refuse to fund earmarks that aren’t explicitly mentioned in statutory language.

Read the whole thing. It’s progress. Too bad he didn’t do this years ago. But still, it’s progress.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: The hogs want to be slopped:

Despite Blog Support, Flake Bid a Long-shot

Every so often, the liberal or conservative blogospheres will get excited and mobilized to make something happen that probably never will. Such is the case with the growing movement to get Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake (R) onto the House Appropriations Committee.

Flake — the House’s best known scourge of spending earmarks and the Appropriations panel in general — is making a play to get onto the committee, hoping to take the slot vacated recently when Rep. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) was appointed to fill Trent Lott’s (R) Senate seat.

Flake’s bid has stirred up significant support on conservative blogs like Captain’s Quarters, and PoliPundit. There’s a Facebook page devoted to his candidacy, and this site hatched by the conservative group FreedomWorks specifically to promote his effort.

There’s just one problem: Flake’s chances are very, very slim, no matter how many bloggers he has in his corner.

Guess why. With even folks like Rush Limbaugh talking about sitting out the 2008 election, the GOP needs to do something to show people it’s serious about controlling pork. Of course, first it needs to be serious.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Bipartisan demands that Bush do nothing about earmarks:

The leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee are calling on President Bush to back away from threats to kill funding for lawmakers’ pet projects.

The pre-emptive warnings from the top Democrat and Republican on the panel are the clearest signs yet that President Bush could face a bipartisan backlash if he uses his executive authority to wipe out the more than $7 billion in earmarks.

Yeah, nobody wants that except the taxpayers . . . . The Republicans, in particular, who are behind this demand are the reason why the GOP lost in 2006, and if Bush listens they’ll be the reason why the GOP loses in 2008.

They won’t care, though, as long as they are permitted to suck unmolested at the government teat.