October 17, 2005

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: The Pork Response emails just keep coming. Roni Carpenter writes about Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL):

Just three weeks after I contacted his office, I have received my very own form letter from Senator Shelby’s office!

I contacted him to 1) show my support for his stand to freeze the budget for the next couple of years to help fund Katrina recovery, 2)encourage him to reconsider pork that already exists in both the federal budget and in the notorious transportation bill, and 3) recommend oversight and accountability in the way the recovery money will be spent.

Of these three items, he addressed only the first:

“I believe we need to look at the budget in a comprehensive way because the reality is that special projects are only one piece of the larger federal budget. To that end, we must also look for ways to reduce mandatory spending which comprises more than two-thirds of the federal budget. It will take more than just reductions in special projects and federal programs to provide the funding necessary for this massive reconstruction effort. We should also closely examine the idea of freezing the federal budget over the next couple of years. That would result in tremendous savings, while causing minimal strain on the American people.”

So, while he does seem interested in keeping the budget from growing (Yeah!), he is not yet willing to sacrifice any of the existing pork in the name of fiscal responsibility (Boo!).

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Thanks for all the effort you have made for this project, Mr. Reynolds. It is a great cause — if only we can convince our elected officials of that!

Indeed. More on this on her blog. Meanwhile, reader Jim Allan writes about my own Congressman, Rep. Jimmy Duncan (R-TN):

Response from “Jimmy” Duncan.

Told me he was one of the most fiscally-conservative members of Congress. Highly recognized by NTU & CAGW.

Says this: “When a large bill moves through the Congress, it often contains some things which are good and some that are bad. However, we often only have one up or down vote on the overall bill. Sometimes I vote for a bill because it contains more good things for East Tennessee than bad even though I may not agree with everything in the bill.”

Like everyone else, he just wants to get re-elected.

Indeed. Texas reader Lee Bailiff emails:

I have recently received a letter from Rep. Kay Granger – (R) in reply to my letter asking her about what, specifically, she plans to do about cutting pork in order to help fund Katrina and Rita relief.

I posted her letter at my blog here:
http://mercsplace.blogspot.com/2005/10/federal-pork.html

Needless to say, I’m not too impressed with her response.

Needless to say . . . Reader G.M. Roper writes:

Per the Pork Buster program, I emailed my congressman (Ruben Hinojosa, D – 15th District of Texas) regarding helping with the effort to cut spending. I actually had high hopes that Mr. Hinojosa would assist. I’m glad I didn’t hold my breath. Here is his totally non responsive response:

Dear Mr. Roper: Thank you for sharing your views on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. As we continue to aid residents from the floodwaters and devastation of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama it is crucial that they get the aid and assistance they so desperately need. The generosity of the American spirit is once again shining strong.

In Texas, shelters were constructed, citizens offered refuge in their extra bedrooms, school districts accepted students, people contributed money, corporations offered funds, and in many cases temporary employment. I applaud the generosity of so many Americans and urge them to continue offering assistance however they can. Our mission as a nation must be to help the least among us; the poor and disenfranchised that have been dramatically affected by Hurricane Katrina. This could have happened just as easily in Texas as in any other state, and before it happens again, we clearly need to investigate the response to this disaster.

Now is the time for Congress to focus on the relief and recovery efforts taking place in the Gulf Region and to do everything possible to help the victims. The federal response to this Disaster was far from adequate. We should appoint an independent commission to learn from the mistakes that were made and to guarantee that those mistakes never happen again. We owe this to the survivors and evacuees and to every American. Again, thank you for sharing your views with me. Please continue to inform me on maters of importance to you.

Sincerely,
Ruben Hinojosa
Member of Congress

No mention at all of out of control spending, but a patent dig at the federal government (and no mention of the New Orleans or Louisanna government’s response). After this response, I am wondering what would be the use of informing him on “on maters of importance” to me. I’m going to have to think VERY very hard before voting for this guy again.

I blogged about it here: http://www.gmroper.com/archives/2005/10/the_pork_buster.htm

You know, people challenging incumbents will be able to find some good stuff by googling them, after this! Reader (and former East Tennesseean) Matt Crandall isn’t very impressed with the letter from Jimmy Duncan that I posted earlier:

Your thread on this topic has now grown to the point where another update might be superfluous, but I couldn’t let this go: Jimmy Duncan sez “I believe there are a number of areas ripe for savings. One example is the proposed lunar mission, which carries a price tag of $104 billion.”

What tripe! As a Congressman, Duncan should know that the entire budget for the lunar mission is coming from existing NASA dollars. If he thinks otherwise, he is welcome to debate the point with the 400+ contractors that have already been laid-off from NASA Glenn, and the additional 400+ civil servants who are targeted for RIF’s. (All to free up dollars for the Space Program, at the expense of “pure science” jobs whose dearth is lamented, somewhat ironically, in a nearby Instapundit post.)

And as NASA Administrator Griffin has already pointed out, the lunar and shuttle programs are conducted almost entirely at NASA’s Space Centers, which are located— you guessed it— all along the Gulf Coast. So in Mr. Duncan’s world, government pork in the form of Katrina Relief is better than good-paying aerospace jobs in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama.

Reader Lawrence Earnshaw isn’t very happy with the response he got from Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT):

Here is the response I received from Senator Lieberman:

“Thank you for your letter concerning spending on recovery efforts in
the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. As you know, the scope of current efforts in the Gulf Coast is already extraordinary and will continue to grow. Our commitment to individuals and communities in the Gulf States must be matched by a commitment to safeguard federal aid against waste, mismanagement, and fraud. It is important to have mechanisms in place as soon as possible to oversee the billions of dollars that will be directed to Hurricane Katrina recovery and relief.

As Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the Committee with jurisdiction over the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), I am working to ensure the integrity of the use of the funds appropriated to Hurricane Katrina efforts. Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) and I have introduced a bill (S.1738), which would assign a Special Inspector General for Relief and Reconstruction to oversee and audit federal Katrina-related expenditures. The Special Inspector General would deploy a team of auditors and investigators who would serve as watchdogs over spending decisions and would investigate allegations of financial mismanagement or wrongdoings. The Special Inspector General’s work would supplement the internal audits and control systems of the various agencies dispensing Katrina relief funds. I believe that this is the best way to ensure that the money for relief and reconstruction efforts is spent in the way for which it was intended.

In addition, I have also cosponsored the Oversight of Vital Emergency Recovery Spending Enhancement and Enforcement Act of 2005 (OVERSEE; S. 1700), introduced by Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Barack Obama (R-IL). This bill would create a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to oversee all expenditures associated with Hurricane Katrina relief and reconstruction. This CFO would be staffed by experts from federal agencies and would have management and oversight over any agency using federal funds for the recovery. The OVERSEE bill also would require the CFO and the Government Accountability Office to issue regular reports to Congress on Katrina related spending. I believe that S. 1700 would ensure that public funds for the relief are allocated as efficiently as possible.

Thank you again for letting me know your views and concerns. My official Senate web site is designed to be an on-line office that provides access to constituent services, Connecticut-specific information, and an abundance of information about what I am working on in the Senate on behalf of Connecticut and the nation. I am also pleased to let you know that I have launched an email news update service through my web site.You can sign up for that service by visiting http://lieberman.senate.gov and clicking on the “Subscribe Email News Updates” button at the bottom of the home page.

Additionally, the web site for the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is designed to provide visitors with information about the matters of the Committee, including news regarding our investigation into the preparation for, and response to Hurricane Katrina. You can access the schedule of upcoming hearings, view press releases, track legislation that has been sent to the Committee and view other Committee information by visiting http://hsgac.senate.gov. I hope these are informative and useful.”

Never mentioned the Pork!

Matt Duffy, meanwhile, blogs the latest from Rep. Tom Price of Georgia and observes:

A notable lack of any hard numbers, but at least he’s saying the right things. A few weeks ago, few representatives in Washington were talking about fiscal discipline. Now, lawmakers are stumbling over themselves to brandish their carving knives. The variable in that equation is the blogging community; I think we should all be pleased.

By the way, I’m impressed with Price’s call for a balanced-budget amendment. Haven’t heard any other lawmakers bring this anachronism back to the debate. I, of course, am all for it. And don’t give me that “need to spend out of a recession” argument either. Plenty of states do just fine with a balanced budget. The United States could do just as well.

I suspect we’ll see that idea gain momentum between now and 2006, and in particular 2008. A Congressional reader who no doubt prefers anonymity, meanwhile, sends this advice:

I have been a fan of your website for sometime and I really appriciate what you guys are doing with porkbusters. Coincidentally, I happen to be currently working for a congressman (in fact his back is to me as I type this) anyway I wanted to give you all a big heads up on your letter writing campaign. (I’m a low level worker so as you can guess I am quite familiar with e-mails, faxes, phone calls, etc.)
To combat the massive wave of form letters and spam e-mail that house members recieve, the powers that be who run the computer systems for the house office buildings have for the past week been installing and updating the e-mail system here. If you send a form letter prepare for a quick and somewhat terse form letter response. There will be no real human contact. It would be much more effective if you were to incourage constituents to call their representative’s DC office. While this puts a big strain on the interns and front desk people, it gets the message across. But DON’T RAMBLE, people need to get their point across, thank them for their time and say good-bye. We low-level guys have plenty of stuff to do without all the phone calls. But we and the congressmen appreciate and pay more attention to constituent calls more than form letter e-mails, half the time we pitch the e-mails anyway.

Good advice. Go for it! RedState, meanwhile, has a response from Senator Jim Bunning, and reader Dan Williams has this to say about his Representative’s response:

Message from Peter DeFazio 4th District Congressman from Oregon. He thinks we should keep the Pork he likes and get rid of anything supporting Bush policy or any campaign promise he’s made. Medicare Perscription drug program, Space effort, WOT, anything.

I think we need a lot of anti-pork primary challengers in 2006. It’s not too late!

UPDATE: Reader Jonathan Bailey emails:

I think the Porkbusters message is beginning to penetrate, slowly, but it is penetrating. This is the latest newsletter from Senator Jon Kyl and he is specifically discussing pork, offsets for Katrina relief spending, etc. I am happy to see it, as well as the fact that he voted against the Highway and Energy bills on grounds of too much pork.

Let’s hope. I’m not adding the Kyl newsletter to this already too-long post, but he specifically praises Citizens Against Government Waste and notes that pork is a bipartisan problem. Here’s just a bit from Kyl:

Now we’re looking for ways to offset some of the spending required to recover from hurricanes Rita and Katrina. There are those who believe that focusing on fiscal responsibility in the aftermath of a natural disaster indicates a lack of compassion, but I believe the opposite is true. A personal tragedy, like a flood or fire, causes families to look for ways to save money before going heavily into debt to rebuild – for example, by cutting back on lower priority spending. So too should the federal government. A good place to start would be to defer some lower priority highway bill projects and apply the money to rebuilding the Gulf Coast. You don’t have to be a Taxpayer’s Hero to figure that out.

Nope.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More progress is reported here:

In a development that will certainly please conservatives who look at the growth in federal government and wonder which party has won the past few elections, the House has begun to turn towards budget reductions and the reduction in federal growth that has long been the GOP standard. In fact, Operation Offset, launched by Rep. Mike Pence, has stirred interest largely due to Tom DeLay’s contention that no further fat could be found in a federal budget that eats up a higher percentage of the nation’s GDP than it ever did during WWII.

Thanks, Tom!

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