February 16, 2006

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: The National Journal is subscription-only and expensive, but Daniel Glover has reproduced some pork-related articles on his blog, with permission.

Here’s Tempest in a Barrel:

For $495, an outfit called TheCapitol.Net will teach you how to feed at the trough. The firm, which does training seminars on how Washington works, is offering a one-day course on how to get an earmark. If you sign up, the folks at TheCapitol.Net will even teach you how to counter “public criticism of pork.” . . .

Suddenly, however, “public criticism of pork” is all the rage, and earmarks are the target. Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham, R-Calif., resigned from the House and is going to prison for taking bribes to use appropriations bills to steer defense contracts to his corporate friends. Lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to operating a favor factory that depended on getting members of Congress to help his clients in a variety of ways. Reformers have vowed to send earmarks the way of such other once-familiar Washington institutions as Duke Ziebert’s restaurant and The Washington Star.

Also, Moving Target:

“Earmarks have become the currency of corruption,” Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., wrote to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., after the guilty pleas of ex-Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham, R-Calif., and lobbyist Jack Abramoff. “We can’t allow this to continue.”

But the road to earmark reform is potholed with definitional booby traps. Take these examples: $1.7 million to rehabilitate historic buildings at White Grass Dude Ranch in Grand Teton National Park, Wyo.; more than $1.5 billion to support “ultra-deepwater” drilling, largely directed to the Texas Energy Center in Sugar Land, Texas; a $44 million break from import duties for makers of ceiling fans, spearheaded by hardware mega-chain Home Depot.

All of the above could be considered earmarks, yet none qualify under the usual definition — that is, a project inserted into an appropriations bill by a member of Congress. The dude-ranch funding, for example, was not a request from the Wyoming congressional delegation but a line item in the White House’s 2006 National Park Service budget.

“What’s an earmark? If there’s a ship in there the administration wants, is that an earmark?” asked Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H. “The definition of how you get into this is going to be difficult.”

Read the whole thing.

And, finally, a look at Presidential vetoes of spending bills — not that we’ve seen many (by which I mean “any”) of those, lately.

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