Rep. Steny Hoyer's Gravy Train of Pork

Free market economist Andy Roth, who runs the Club for Growth blog, has launched one of the most important campaigns in the blogosphere: Blogs Against Pork.

Mr. Roth is recruiting dozens of bloggers around the country who are committed to tracking their congressman’s record on pork-barrel spending; or, more specifically, how their district’s House representative voted on Congressman Jeff Flake’s 19 anti-pork amendments — initiatives that forced every House member to record his or her position on earmarks. He has also compiled a scorecard of how every member voted on the Flake amendments, an invaluable quick-reference guide for anyone interested in determining their congressman’s stance on wasteful spending.

As a resident of Maryland’s 5th Congressional District, I have the distinct pleasure of drawing Rep. Steny Hoyer, one of the most notorious tax-and-spend Democrats in Congress. On the one hand, it’s great fun to excoriate big-spending liberals. But on the other, I unfortunately have to live with the fact that my congressman blows more money than John Daly on a bad night in Vegas. The big difference, of course, is that Daly spends his own money.

Rep. Hoyer, who has almost never voted in favor of pro-growth measures in Congress, unsurprisingly voted "NO" on every single Flake amendment—a "perfect" 0 for 19—indicating his affirmation of these pork-stuffed bills. According to Porkbusters, this means that Steny Hoyer—along with the vast majority of both Democrats and Republicans—approves of the $34,759,000 of our tax money spent with no oversight, no debate, no committee up or down vote, and no rules whatsoever. Indeed, as Roth notes, “People think Washington is just a big arena where polarized Democrats and Republicans sling mud and battle it out with each other. But when it comes to spending the people’s hard-earned tax dollars, Congress is all about bipartisan hugs and kisses.”

As they say, it’s easy to be charitable with other people’s money. But Hoyer’s votes probably wouldn’t be so hard to stomach if he didn’t actually pretend to care so much about the taxpayer. Indeed, according to his campaign biography: "[Rep. Hoyer] is a strong proponent in Congress for fiscal responsibility because he believes that we should not force our children and grandchildren to pay this generation’s bills."

This is an odd claim for a congressman who received a whopping score of 9 (out of 100) last year from Citizens Against Government Waste; for a congressman who as House appropriator has attached millions upon millions in federal pork over the years to various appropriations bills in order to bankroll local projects; for a congressman whose very website boasts of Hoyer’s status on the "powerful Appropriations Committee" as responsible for his ability to "[secure] millions of federal dollars to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and the Patuxent, Potomac, Anacostia, and St. Mary’s Rivers, and to replenish the oyster population of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries."

Some folks may argue that federal earmarks for Maryland’s waterways—to take just one example—are justified because of their convergence in some cases with federal bodies of water, or their proximity to a certain federally subsidized marsh known as Washington, D.C.

Sounds fair enough, I suppose, until one considers that private companies and advocacy groups that have a vested interest in preserving our environment could be expected to accept the costs of doing so. However, if we insist on allocating federal monies to these matters, such spending should at the very least be proposed in an authorized manner, designated by a member of Congress and containing oversight. In short, if a project is worthwhile enough to be funded, it should be able to stand on its own legs.

Currently in his 12th term, Steny Hoyer has acquired a reputation in Southern Maryland as a congressman for the people, as he even draws the votes of many Republicans who buy into his claim to be the protector of the state’s military bases and numerous federal government jobs (he didn’t do so much for DFAS employees last year, though, who found their office on the BRAC list). But it can’t be too hard to make friends when you have the nation’s checkbook at your disposal and the willingness to buy your support.

In no uncertain terms, the voters of Maryland’s 5th District are bought and paid for, and, quite frankly, the majority doesn’t seem to mind so long as federal earmarks for local projects keep rolling in. But it would be interesting indeed to see how many Marylanders would be riding Steny’s gravy train if the congressman had to spend his own money, as opposed to having the luxury of handing out yours and mine.

A similar version of this article appeared earlier on the RealClearPolitics website and is reprinted with permission.