Monday, July 16, 2007

More Earmarks

When the Democrats took over the House this past January, I listened to Brand new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, claim that this would be the most transparent and ethical House ever. It has been said that the cream comes to the top, but in this case the milk was soured. Names of Nancy's buddies with long ties to corruption, Pork spending, and lack of ethical conduct surfaced. Names like Alcee Hastings (D-FL), John Murtha (D-PA) and William Jefferson (D-LA) are all names with direct ties to less than ethical behavior and who are supported by Ms. Pelosi. It is not cream on the top of this morass.

In case you don't know, Alcee Hastings was Impeached and removed from the Bench. John Murtha was an un-indicted co-conspirator in the Abscam sting. And William Jefferson awaits trial after being indicted on 16 counts of bribery because $90,000 of FBI money was found in his freezer. To be sure, there are Republicans in the House who deserve mention as part of the "less than honorable" club. Names like Roy Blunt (R-MO), Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and Jerry Lewis (R-CA) for starters. If you want more info on these and other members of Congress, go here.

But today, as my title says, I want to point you to an article by Robert Novak about Sham Earmark Reform. The American Public was lead to believe we were going to have a new benchmark in transparency and open government, especially in the House. One of the ways transparency was to be instituted was to openly debate and vote on all Earmarks by the full House. But, that's not exactly the way it's working.
But the House the last week of June showed that the celebrated transparency is a sham. Each newly transparent earmark brought to a floor vote lost by a huge margin.
Meanwhile back at the House,
Considering the Interior Appropriations bill June 26, the House kept alive 11 egregious earmarks. Rep. John Murtha, king of Democratic earmarkers, kept $1.2 million for the Southwestern Pennsylvania Heritage Preservation Commission in Hollidaysburg, Pa. (by a 343 to 86 vote), and $150,000 for W.A. Young & Sons Foundry in Greene County, Pa. (328 to 104). The House voted 323 to 104 to retain $140,000 for the Wetzel County, W. Va., courthouse sponsored by Democratic Rep. Allan Mollohan, whose earmarks have provoked an FBI investigation.

Moving on to Financial Services Appropriations June 28, the House voted 335 to 87 to continue Murtha's raid on the Treasury: $231,000 for the Grace Johnstown (Pa.) Area Regional Industries Incubator. By 325 to 101, the members refused to remove a $231,000 Mollohan earmark for the West Virginia University Research Corp. to renovate a "small business incubator." As usual, dauntless Republican Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona led the way in targeting colleagues' earmarks. He did not exempt Republican pork fanciers -- including 15-term California Rep. Jerry Lewis, ranking minority member of the Appropriations Committee, whose past earmarking raised ethical questions.
There are some encouraging highlights, however. Notice that in the above paragraph, Jeff Flake (R-AZ) took on fellow Republican Jerry Lewis (R-CA). What happened? Well ...
Flake opposed Lewis's $500,000 earmark for the Barracks Row Main Street project in Southeast Washington, D.C. Flake noted on the House floor that millions in federal funds have flowed into that neighborhood since 1999, including a $750,000 earmark last year. "I certainly hope," said Flake, "that we are not approving a redevelopment earmark today to redevelop last year's redevelopment earmark." Such comments led Republican leaders last year to purge Flake from the House Judiciary Committee.
And Then ... Lewis's earmark was retained, 361 to 60.

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