PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: John Fund reports on politicizing the Congressional Research Service to cover up earmarks:
Nothing highlighted Congress’s spending problem in last year’s election more than earmarks, the special projects like Alaska’s “Bridge to Nowhere” that members drop into last-minute conference reports leaving no opportunity to debate or amend them. Voters opted for change in Congress, but on earmarks it looks as if they’ll only be getting more smoke and mirrors.
Democrats promised reform and instituted “a moratorium” on all earmarks until the system was cleaned up. Now the appropriations committees are privately accepting pork-barrel requests again. But curiously, the scorekeeper on earmarks, the Library of Congress’s Congressional Research Service (CRS)–a publicly funded, nonpartisan federal agency–has suddenly announced it will no longer respond to requests from members of Congress on the size, number or background of earmarks. “They claim it’ll be transparent, but they’re taking away the very data that lets us know what’s really happening,” says Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn. “I’m convinced the appropriations committees are flexing their muscles with CRS.”
Indeed, the shift in CRS policy represents a dramatic break with its 12-year practice of supplying members with earmark data. “CRS will no longer identify earmarks for individual programs, activities, entities, or individuals,” stated a private Feb. 22 directive from CRS Director Daniel Mulhollan. . . .
Despite claims they would bring reform, Congress’s new bosses are acting like the old bosses. Last Friday, Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake sought clarification from House Appropriations Chairman David Obey about an incorrect listing of a NASA earmark in the Iraq supplemental bill. Rep. Obey responded: “The fact is, that an earmark is something that is requested by an individual member. This item was not requested by any individual member. It was put in the bill by me!” In other words, Mr. Obey believes his own earmarks are nothing of the kind.
Sen. Coburn plans to fight back. He says he will attach an amendment to every appropriations bill demanding CRS prepare a full report on the earmarks in it. “Let senators vote for secrecy and prove they don’t want a transparent process or let them deliver what they promised,” he says. “The choice will be theirs and the American people will be watching.”
We need to keep their feet to the fire, and force them to live up to their pre-election promises about earmarks.
UPDATE: House porkers on video.