Hatch, Bennett, and Earmarks

I called both Hatch’s and Bennett’s offices to ask how they voted on Senator DeMint’s moratorium on earmarks (pork). Both opposed the moratorium. That wasn’t surprising given that both are proud pork-barrel proponents.

What was surprising, was how Hatch’s staffer reacted at my question and subsequent statement that I was disappointed in his vote. Evidently, the issue touched a nerve, as the staffer went into a very defensive and argumentative mode stating that earmarks are great for bringing money into the State for necessary programs and earmarks are not pork. I, politely, noted that if the programs were so expedient, certainly they could be brought up on their own merits rather than being stuck into essential spending bills which are totally unrelated to the program (especially when it benefits a special interest). The staffer stated that earmarks were necessary as agencies waste the money. I countered that if the agency is being wasteful, propose a budget cut. We ended up agreeing to disagree (note: while the staffer was somewhat terse, we both kept our cool during our conversation).

Frankly, I was unprepared for the confrontation. Anyone contacting Hatch’s (and Bennett’s office) should read Citizens Against Government Waste‘s (CAGW) “All About Pork: The Abuse of Earmarks and the Needed Reforms“. It will guide you through the process and help you avoid having to ‘shoot from the hip’ as I did.

By reading the short publication, you will learn earmarks are a new tactic and not Founding Father approved (despite assertions by Senator Harry Reid and other porkers). Additionally, the guide helped me understand why the staffer seemed to take a personal interest in the subject (see pages 7 and 8).

Staffers may bring up the fact that earmarks can be voted on in session. This is only partially true. It is highly unlikely that a legislator is going to risk strong political reprisals by contesting earmarks and most of the debate tends to focus on the mountainous spending bill (especially omnibus bills) which most have not had the time to read (they, likely, won’t know about the earmarks). The staffers are also misleading you, as once the bill is passed and goes to conference committee, things can be added without debate.

With the help of President Bush, this year, the public can find out about some earmarks at the OMB’s earmarks site. However, the data is old (still catching up) and doesn’t show who requested the earmark. CAGW, has a much better suggestion: ask your legislator to list all their earmark requests on their House/Senate website. After all, both Hatch and Bennett boast that they are proud of their earmarks – why not advertise those requests.

Finally, if either Bennett’s or Hatch’s office tries to say that earmarks are for legitimate government operations, ask them how Michael Leavitt’s Oquirrh Institute serves a core federal function, after receiving $550,000 from taxpayers and a $300,000 earmark from Senator Bennett in 2006 (not sure how much, if any, was received in 2007). Not bad for a place that doesn’t even have its own website (site is part of parkcitycenter.org).

Lastly, the pork binge is certainly not limited to the federal government. Locally, there are several projects I can think of that benefit special interests at taxpayer expense. A statement in CAGW’s earmark guide is applicable to all levels:

In recent years, pork-barrel spending has been characterized by a loss of shame. More and more municipalities, universities, and nonprofits see lobbying for earmarks as a legitimate means of raising funds.

Further reading on recent earmark actions:

Study Finds Record Education Earmarks – Universities eating from the trough (also addressed in CAGW’s publication)
Pork pull in the Senate: Moratorium bid fails in the dark
Your Congress at work: raising taxes, dodging pork vote – a nice double whammy

I have also linked up CAGW (including “The Swine Line” blog) and Porkbusters in the blogroll.

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