PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: More and more news outlets seem to be noticing the Democrats’ disappointing performance on pork:
When the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives passed one of its first spending bills, funding the Energy Department for the rest of 2007, it proudly boasted that the legislation contained no money earmarked for lawmakers’ pet projects and stressed that any prior congressional requests for such spending “shall have no legal effect.”
Within days, however, lawmakers including Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) began directly contacting the Energy Department. They sought to secure money for their favorite causes outside of the congressional appropriations process — a practice that lobbyists and appropriations insiders call “phonemarking.” . . .
The number of earmarks, in which lawmakers target funds to specific spending projects, exploded over the past decade from about 3,000 in 1996 to more than 13,000 in 2006, according to the Congressional Research Service. Most earmarks made it into appropriations bills or their accompanying conference reports without identifying their sponsors. Upon taking control of Congress after November’s midterm elections, Democrats vowed to try to halve the number of earmarks, and to require lawmakers to disclose their requests and to certify that the money they are requesting will not benefit them.
But the new majority is already skirting its own reforms. . . . “Absolutely nothing has changed,” said the Center for Defense Information’s Winslow T. Wheeler, a Senate appropriations and national security aide who worked for both Democrats and Republicans over three decades before stepping down in 2002. “The rhetoric has changed but not the behavior, and the behavior has gotten worse in the sense that while they are pretending to reform things, they are still groveling in the trough.”
Meet the new boss, yada yada. Read the whole thing.