A group of over two dozen prominent conservatives led by former Atty. Gen. Ed Meese and operating under the umbrella of the Conservative Action Project recently issued a highly critical analysis of congressional spending, earmarks and pork. Here is a summary:
Congress Should Slow the Spending, End the Earmarks and Plug the Pork
Clearly, the practice of putting thousands of earmarks in spending bills, many for projects of a purely local nature, did not originate with the Founding Fathers—it is a recent phenomenon. Congress never extensively earmarked until the 1990s; it is neither necessary nor traditional to buy elections with pork.
“Earmarking” is not just the normal legislative process or Congress using its “power of the purse.” The term “earmark” does not attach to every congressional funding decision. Earmarking is a phenomenon whereby legislators direct pork barrel spending to their districts outside of a statutory formula-driven or competitive award process for a federal program. The growth in earmarking has directly coincided with the growth in government.
In an effort to encourage more members of Congress and candidates for office to kick the earmarking habit, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) has launched a new no-gimmicks, anti-pork pledge. By signing CCAGW’s No Pork Pledge, incumbents and candidates vow not to request any pork-barrel earmark that violates any of the seven criteria contained in the annual Congressional Pig Book.
In 1970, there were 12 earmarks in the defense spending bill. In 2010, there were 1,752 earmarks.
The first federal aid-highway bill in 1916 had zero earmarks; the bill to create the Interstate Highway System in 1956 had two projects suggested by members of Congress. President Reagan vetoed a surface transportation bill in 1986 when it had 152 earmarks worth $1 billion, while the most recent highway authorization bill in 2005 had more than 6,300 earmarks worth $24.5 billion, including the infamous Bridge to Nowhere.
Some Earmark “Classics” Are Unforgetable
• $7.3 million for grasshopper research in North Dakota—fiscal 1999.
• $1 million for a DNA study of bears in Montana—fiscal 2003.
• $50,000 for a tattoo removal program in California—fiscal 2002.
In addition to CCAGW, a board cross-section of grassroots organizations have been outspoken in support of earmark reform including: Americans for Tax Reform, National Taxpayers Union, FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity and Liberty Coalition.
House Republicans Take Lead in Earmark Reform
• The March 2010 House Republican Conference unilateral moratorium on all earmarks has had a significant impact on the fiscal 2011 appropriations bills reducing the overall number and cost of earmarks in the bill and increasing spending transparency—but with spending still out of control, more is needed.
• The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) and Related Agencies Appropriations bill is regularly one of the most heavily earmarked appropriations bills. The fiscal 2011 contains 459 earmarks—453 of which (or 99.3%) were requested by Democrats.
• In the eight fiscal 2011 bills that have been reported out of the House Appropriations subcommittees to date, there has been a 47.8% decrease in the number of projects and a 29% decrease in the cost of earmarks, for a total savings to taxpayers of $801.5million in pork
Pelosi Democrats Married To Earmarks
• While Republicans have sworn off earmark requests and firmly support reforming the earmarking process, Democrats have sworn off of only for-profit earmarks and have refused to consider any additional earmark reforms
• Some politicians have gotten quite creative in getting around their own earmark moratorium. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D.-Ohio) was named Porker of the Month after she requested a $10.4 million earmark for fiscal year 2011 for the Great Lakes Research Center, a nonprofit organization that specializes in the same kind of work, has the same officers, and operates out of the same location as a for-profit company.
Tom Schatz, President, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste
Duane Parde, President, National Taxpayers Union
Grover Norquist, President, Americans for Tax Reform
Matt Kibbe, President, FreedomWorks
Karen Kerrigan, President, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council
William Wilson, President, Americans for Limited Government
Dr. Herbert London, President, Hudson Institute
Wendy Wright, President, Concerned Women for America
Bob McEwen, former Member of Congress, Ohio
James C. Miller III, former Reagan Budget Director
Virginia Thomas, President, Liberty Central
Colin Hanna, President, Let Freedom Ring
Donna Hearne, Executive Director, Constitutional Coalition
Gary Bauer, President, American Values
Mathew D. Staver, Founder & Chairman, Liberty Counsel
Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council
David N. Bossie, President, Citizens United
Alfred Regnery, Publisher, American Spectator
Jordan Marks, Executive Director, Young Americans for Freedom
Brent Bozell, President, Media Research Center
James Martin, Chairman, 60 Plus Association
Herman Cain, President, The NEW Voice, Inc.
Richard Viguerie, Chairman, ConservativeHQ.com