April 14, 2007

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: A recent National Journal article (sorry, link is subscriber-only) suggests that lobbyists are worried:

But beneath the surface there was a feeling of anxiety among the lobbyists gathered at Pentagon City’s Ritz-Carlton hotel in Arlington, Va. They had their minds on a rule adopted by the House in January that toughens the process for winning — and will likely restrict — appropriations earmarks. Those are special-interest provisions, ubiquitous in recent years, in which members of Congress direct money to specific projects by inserting narrow, targeted language into spending bills.

Lobbying for earmarks has become a profitable business for many K Street firms. Weapons makers, colleges and universities, hospitals, municipalities, and many other clients pay lobbyists big fees to persuade the right lawmaker to include a pet project or favorite program in an appropriations measure.

The new rule is causing heartburn because it requires lobbyists and members to submit additional paperwork explaining and justifying their earmark requests. At the Murtha bash, said one lobbyist who attended, there was a lot of chatter about the “onerous documentation” now required of those seeking earmarks.

Beyond that, the lobbyist added, 2007 is shaping up as “a perfect storm for defense earmarks.” In addition to the tougher rule — intended to stop ethical abuses that have given earmarks a bad name — the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are forcing budget constraints that are sure to reduce the number of defense earmarks in this year’s spending bills.

This is a time of uncertainty for lobbyists who have prospered by capitalizing on the booming earmark business in defense as well as other industries and economic sectors. “We’re warning all our clients that they have to be realistic in their requests in terms of dollars,” said Stewart Van Scoyoc, who attended the Murtha event and is the founder of the 17-year-old firm whose name is often linked with earmark lobbying.

This is music to my ears. Let’s hope the “perfect storm” is as perfect as we can make it.

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