with apologies to pig farmers

Byline: | Category: Uncategorized | Posted at: Thursday, 22 June 2006

pigfarmer.jpg

Robert Novak recently linked the pork business and corruption on Capitol Hill.

Earmarks increasingly are the source of corruption and ethical transgressions on both sides of the aisle in Congress.

He’s right.  George Will made a similar point in January:

People serious about reducing the role of money in politics should be serious about reducing the role of politics in distributing money.

In that same column, Will mentions one person who might be able to lead Congress out of the pig sty:  John Boehner. 

A salient fact: In 15 years in the House, Boehner has never put an earmark in an appropriations or transportation bill.

That was high praise and a strong resume for Mr. Boehner, who was recently elevated to replace Tom Delay as the House Majority Leader.

Sadly, last week, John Boehner didn’t live up to his reformist reputation when he voted down every single pork-cutting proposal offered by Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake.  Among the pork Boehner let pass:

$1.5 million for the William Faulkner Museum in Oxford, Miss. (affirmed in a voice vote) or $250,000 to turn the Strand Theater in Plattsburgh, N.Y., into a performing arts center (affirmed 366-61). . .  $500,000 for swimming pool renovations in Banning, Calif. (affirmed 365-61), and $500,000 for a Crafton Hills College athletic facility in Yucaipa, Calif. (affirmed 368-58).

Obviously, these are pork projects, but how does that relate to legislative corruption?  Again, Novak fills in the blanks:

On the day after these votes, reform Republicans in Congress were startled by a report in the Chicago Sun-Times, based on research by the Sunlight Foundation, that House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert earned $2 million by the 2005 sale of land he purchased in 2004. Hastert last July earmarked $207 million as the first appropriation for the proposed Prairie Parkway, located 5.5 miles from the property purchased by the speaker.

(A powerful legislative leader who steers taxpayer dollars to projects that directly benefit him.  Now where have I heard of that before?)

A few months ago I asked how we could reform the system so that legislators had less ability to steer projects to their districts, their friends, and themselves.  I don’t have all the answers, but I’m looking for more ideas.

How do we de-link power and pork?

UPDATE:

More alleged earmarked corruption:

In early 2004, according to Roll Call, [US Representative John] Murtha “reportedly leaned on U.S. Navy officials to sign a contract to transfer the Hunters Point Shipyard to the city of San Francisco.” Laurence Pelosi, nephew of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, at the time was an executive of the company which owned the rights to the land. The same article also reported how Mr. Murtha has been behind millions of dollars worth of earmarks in defense appropriations bills that went to companies owned by the children of fellow Pennsylvania Democrat, Rep. Paul Kanjorski.

UPDATE II:

Yet more pork and corruption reporting from the WT’s cross-town rival the WP:

A Republican House member from California, meanwhile, received nearly double what he paid for a four-acre parcel near an Air Force base after securing $8 million for a planned freeway interchange 16 miles away. And another California GOP congressman obtained funding in last year’s highway bill for street improvements near a planned residential and commercial development that he co-owns.

In all three cases, Hastert and Reps. Ken Calvert and Gary Miller say that they were securing funds their home districts wanted badly, and that in no way did the earmarks have any impact on the land values of their investments.

. . . Now watchdog groups are combing through lawmakers’ land holdings and legislative activities, searching for earmarks that may have boosted the value of those investments.

“The sound bites from politicians have always been that they’re doing what’s best for their districts, but we’re starting to see a pattern that looks like they might be doing what’s best for their pocketbooks,” said Keith Ashdown, vice president of the group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Let’s first stipulate that this is NOT a Republican versus Democratic problem.  It is taxpayers versus powerful politicians.  And we are on the side that is currently losing. 

However, in November, we get a chance to even the score. (ht:GR)

(pardon the metaphor mixing)

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One Response to “with apologies to pig farmers”

  1. Rick Forman Says:

    From another one in the news lately:

    “But, a videotape of a Jan. 7, 1980 Abscam-related meeting involving Murtha shows that the congressman’s rejection of the offered bribe was less than definite. “I’m not interested. I’m sorry,” Murtha told the FBI agent, but added that he meant “at this point.”