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Thursday, November 25, 2010

CNN Finds Democrat's Accusations On GOP Earmarks 'Unfounded'

It is Thanksgiving so I won't be writing a lot of commentary here, but this little fact checking from CNN against the Democrat's accusations that the GOP went against their own ban on earmarks, shows that those accusations are "unfounded" and those trying to push this story are simply being deliberately dishonest.


Democratic Party officials are blasting out emails accusing the Senate's second ranking Republican of backtracking on his pledge not to seek earmarks, but a closer look by CNN shows their accusations appear unfounded.

The issue:

$200 million project to provide drinking water for an Indian tribe in Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl's home state of Arizona.

CNN quotes an Obama administration official as to why this is not an earmark:

Dan DuBray, a spokesman for the Bureau of Relocation, part of the Interior Department, says the $200 million was part of a settlement they negotiated with the tribe, and that everyone agreed it was a good idea to pair it with the black farmers' legislation, because by law settlements such as this must be approved by Congress.

"We don't see it as an earmark at all," said Dan DuBray.

Also included in the 272-page legislation are settlements for other Native American groups outside Kyl's state of Arizona: Montana's Crow Tribe and New Mexico's Taos Pueblo and Pojoaque River Basin communities. Democrats Max Baucus (Montana) and Jeff Bingaman (New Mexico) championed funding for those projects.

Also quotes from anti-earmark crusader Steve Ellis, spokesman for the anti-earmark group Taxpayers for Common Sense:

"There's no way Congress (Republican or Democrat) would consider this an official earmark. This does deal with a pay me now or pay me later settlement issue, so Uncle Sam was going to be coming up with the cash whether or not Sen. Kyl got it in".

After winning enough House seats in the midterm elections (63 so far) to take control of the House of Representatives away from Democrats, the GOP, who will be in control of the 112th Congress, approved a ban on earmarks.

Democrats have refused to make the same pledge.

(As just a small example, the $787 plus billion stimulus package was chalk full of earmarks, some listed here and other media reports showing more.)

Earmarks aka Pork:

In American politics, an earmark is a legislative provision that directs approved funds to be spent on specific projects. Earmarking is the term for the process lawmakers use to add funding for "pet projects" to legislation benefiting the lawmakers district.

Lawmakers slip the earmark into other legislation having nothing to do with the projects and get them funded when the legislation is passed.

Taxpayers for Common Sense have a database of FY2010 earmark requests and Washington Watch has a detailed list of Representatives with links to their requested earmarks.

In the past Republicans have been just as guilty of earmarking as Democrats have been and with this GOP ban on earmarks being approved they are symbolically showing voters they understand their concerns and are prepared to address them formally.

It was reported in 2009 that Congress was on pace to spend at least $11 billion on disclosed earmarks for 2010.

$11 billion is just a drop in the bucket in terms of government spending and decreasing the national deficit, but enough drops of water in a bucket will eventually fill it up over the long term and earmarks have become synonymous with wasteful government spending even though some earmarks can benefit many.

Banning earmarks is a baby step but it is a step in the right direction.