Mt. Vernon Register-News

May 18, 2010

Rippy: On the subject of earmarks

MT. VERNON — We are going to continue talking about lobbyists, clean, fair elections with public financing, Earmarks and amendments. You will probably get bored before the November elections and certainly before the elections in 2012, from hearing about these subjects. We should be convinced that these are issues that must be addressed before our country can ever regain the strength necessary to be the leader that it once was.

Every major problem that we have can be traced to the way our governmental leaders are influenced by the flow of money from the special interest groups. The decline of good jobs reflects the loss in our middle class year after year as good jobs are no longer available and opportunities for a secure life are diminished.

Recently we learned that Fannie Mae has again asked taxpayers for more money — this time $8.4 billion — after reporting another steep loss for the first quarter.  The taxpayer bill for rescuing Fannie and its sibling Freddie Mac has grown to $145 billion — and the final tally could be much higher.  The rescue of Fannie and Freddie is turning out to be one of the most expensive after effects of the financial meltdown, and Fannie Mae’s first-quarter financial report on Monday made clear that there is no end in sight.

I find it amazing that the folks elected to represent us always find a way to shuck the responsibility for the shape our country is in. Think about it! Who makes the laws and writes the rules? It does not make any difference whether we have Democrats or Republicans in power. The lobbyists funded by the billions of dollars supplied by special interest groups are the ones who really control our country. We simply must stop the buying of our Congress and Senate votes by these groups.

Earmarks are just another way they purchase the votes. They do not show up in the original bill and are added later in the process. I should say hidden and then added.

Note the Article from Sunlight Foundation in Wikipedia on earmarks. “An earmark is an item that is inserted into a bill to direct funds to a specific project or recipient without any public hearing or review. One of the problems is that there is no transparency or accountability in the system.

“U.S. Congressional members can secure hundreds of millions of dollars of funding for a project without subjecting it to debate by their colleagues in the Congress, or to the scrutiny and oversight of the public. Because earmarks are hard to identify, some members use them to secretly award their biggest campaign contributors or exchange them for bribes. The secrecy of the earmarking process invites unethical and corrupt behavior, where lobbyists and contractors and well-connected individuals give campaign contributions to legislators in return for federal funding.

“Earmarks are inserted anonymously as items in appropriations and other bills, or appear, sometimes as lists, sometimes embedded in text, in the House, Senate or Conference Committee reports that accompany legislation. While most earmarks tend to be located in appropriations bills, they can pop up in other bills as well.

“Under current congressional rules, there is no requirement that a member identify his or her earmarks. Generally the more powerful members of the U.S. Congress get more earmarks. Members of the Appropriations Committees in the House and Senate are in the best position to secure earmarks. They can insert them into spending bills during closed committee meetings, with no public scrutiny. Earmarks are also offered to members to entice them to vote for a bill they otherwise would not vote for.”

Let’s look at excerpts from our President’s remarks in March 2009. We do not have room to publish the thousands of earmarks that have been attached to bills at the request of lobbyists who represent the special interest groups.

“... But the fact is that on occasion, earmarks have been used as a vehicle for waste, and fraud and abuse. Projects have been inserted at the 11th hour, without review, and sometimes without merit, in order to satisfy the political or personal agendas of a given legislator, rather than the public interest. There are times where earmarks may be good on their own, but in the context of a tight budget might not be our highest priority. So these practices hit their peak in the middle of this decade, when the number of earmarks had ballooned to more than 16,000, and played a part in a series of corruption cases.”

Here are some of the earmarks that made it into legislation this year as reported by the Pig Book: $5 million for the Presidio Heritage Center in California; $2.5 million for potato pest management and research; $1.4 million to study mosquito trapping in Florida; $1 million for Portsmouth Music Hall in New Hampshire;  $800,000 for catfish genome mapping in Alabama; $206,000 for wool research in Montana, Texas and Wyoming; $465,000,000 for the alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter; $400,000 for the USA Swimming Foundation in New Jersey; $300,000 for Carnegie Hall in New York City; $250,000 for the Monroe County Farmer’s Market in Kentucky; and $200,000 for the Washington National Opera in the District of Columbia.

I think the people are has finally waking up to the corruption and starting to kick out the incumbents who represent the special interest regardless of party affiliation.