NOVEMBER 13, 2006
The country’s two new Congressional leaders have vowed to reform a controversial practice that they themselves have abused and permits lawmakers to secretly obtain millions of federal taxpayer dollars for special interests in their district.
The New Speaker of the House, California’s Nancy Pelosi, and the Senate’s new leader, Nevada’s Harry Reid, claim they will reform earmarks even though both lawmakers have bragged about using them to obtain millions of public dollars for their hometown businesses and institutions. Lawmakers do it by anonymously inserting language in a bill, to allocate funds, at the last minute to avoid public scrutiny.
Pelosi, San Francisco’s longtime Democratic Representative, has secured hundreds of millions of dollars over the years and is well-known as a champion practitioner of earmarking on Capitol Hill. Just last year she boasted about securing $115 million for various local projects, including the conversion of a hotel into efficiency units, equipment for a local university and to improve a recreation area.
A taxpayer watchdog group that annually produces a Congressional Pig Book on earmarks, also known as pork-barrel spending, estimates that Pelosi ranks among the top lawmakers who annually bring home millions for special interests. In 2006 her district received more earmarks than any other and a few years ago she shamelessly secured $1 million for a university center started by her longtime advisor and campaign treasurer.
Now the new Speaker of the House wants to suddenly reform the system claiming that there has to be transparency and that she would just as soon do away with all earmarks.
Pelosi’s counterpart in the Senate is singing a similar tune. Reid said reforming earmarks will be a priority of his tenure although he himself has benefited tremendously from them. Just last year he snuck an $18 million earmark, that personally benefited him, into a massive $286 million federal transportation bill. The money will help construct a bridge over the Colorado River that will vastly increase property values across the river in Arizona. Reid happens to own 160 acres of land in the area, just miles from the proposed bridge.
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