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Corruption Chronicles

Earmark Reform Comm. MIA

Nearly a year after House Republicans created a much-ballyhooed committee on earmark reform, it has done nothing to repair the notoriously unethical—and often corrupt—method of publicly funding pet projects for the politically connected.

In fact, eight of the 10 Republicans who serve on the highly touted Select Committee on Earmark Reform have continued to seek earmarks and so have the vast majority of their colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives. The pork spending has continued uninterrupted even though Republican members were asked to refrain from requesting any additional earmarks until the new committee reported back with its highly anticipated reform recommendations.

Almost a year later, there has been no report and no recommendations even though both were scheduled to be delivered no later than February 16, 2009. The committee claims the report is a “work in progress” although members openly admit that they haven’t bothered meeting since they missed the original February deadline.

In the meantime, committee Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington has requested nearly $130 million in earmarks so far this year. Only two members of the new reform group, Arizona’s Jeff Flake and Texas’ Jeb Hensarling, have refrained from requesting earmarks. So much for the committee’s claims that it will bring change and transparency to the process by which Washington spends taxpayers’ money.

When they created the earmark reform committee, GOP leaders claimed that the spending habits of Congress have become a clear symbol of a “broken Washington” because federal lawmakers allocate billions of tax dollars yearly to projects that benefit their influential supporters and campaign donors.  

A great example is the recently passed 2010 defense spending bill. It was loaded with $2.6 billion in earmarks to fund highly questionable projects that will benefit the financial supporters of the lawmakers—both Democrat and Republican—who voted for the legislation. President Obama signed it even though he’s repeatedly vowed to battle the special interests that severely inflated military spending in the past.

Not surprisingly, even Obama has used the earmark process to steer hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to his family and financial supporters as an Illinois Senator and so has House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. A few years ago Madame Speaker inserted a $25 million provision into a redevelopment bill to financially benefit her husband.


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