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Corruption Chronicles

Congressman Unapologetic About Questionalble Earmarks

The Washington Post reports that Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-CA) is unapologetic that he helped steer $37 million for defense funding to a California company, whose officials and lobbyists helped raise at least $85,000 for Doolittle and his leadership political action committee.

Doolittle’s statement comes despite the fact that the director of this California company has been identified as “Coconspirator No. 1” in criminal charges brought against Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) late last year. Cunningham pleaded guilty and resigned from Congress last November for taking $2.4 million in bribes in return for inserting earmarks in appropriations bills.

The post article mentions a Congressional Research Service report that earmarks have jumped from 4,155 valued at about $29 billion in 1994 to 14,211 worth nearly $53 billion 10 years later. This seems to suggest that there is some correlation between the relationship between members of Congress and lobbyists.

The hunt for earmarks has become so consuming that lawmakers are neglecting other duties, said Scott Lilly, who recently retired as chief Democratic aide on the House Appropriations Committee. Last year, the committee received 10,000 requests for home-district projects on one spending bill alone — 25.4 projects per lawmaker, said committee spokesman John Scofield.

Earmarks have become such an obsession of the Congress, “That’s all they do,” continues Lilly.

But there does appear to be some hope for change in the Senate. Mark Tapscott reports that Senators Coburn and McCain have circulated a letter to all Senators saying that they will challenge every future legislative earmark that comes to the Senate floor. The senators say, “We believe that the process of earmarking undermines the confidence of the American public in Congress because the practice is not open, fair, or competitive and tends to reward the politically well-connected.”


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