Citizen Journalists Dig Out More on Earmarks


More and more questions are being raised about earmarks proposed in H.R. 5647, the Labor, HHS and education appropriations bill.

Marie Carnes, commenting at the IlliniPundit blog, writes,

The only item listed for Springfield is, $300,000 to the “Illinois Primary Health Care Association, for electronic medical records systems.”

That the IPHCA is getting federal money is a bit baffling. Their office is a couple blocks from the Statehouse. It’s an association. Even though they are a non-profit, I think it’s safe to say their Springfield office a lobbyist operation.

Also, a quick review of their web site gives no indication that they actually see patients who have “medical records.” So, why the need for a medical records system?

The about page states, “(IPHCA) is a non-for-profit trade association that proudly serves as Illinois’ sole primary care association.” I don’t doubt they do good works, but just what does that mean?

We have three congressional districts running through Springfield. LaHood, Shimkus, and Evans. I can’t imagine any of those guys are behind this $300,000 grant. I’d love to know who is, though.

Two commenters here at Sunlight have found interesting information about money earmarked for a Pennsylvania community college. Ocschuylkill writes:

$8,500,000.00 Allegheny County PA Community College of Allegheny County for technical education programs

This one falls in the District of Rep. Mellissa Hart. She sits on the board of the CCAC (according to her bio). I have contacted the office and am awaiting a reply regarding the origins of this earmark.

…to which Anna responds,

8.5 million is a pretty good return on investment (40,000 to Whitmer & Worrall for lobbying).

Whitmer & Worrall’s contributions to Hart’s campaign: Whitmer $1,000 06/23/2005 Worrall $1,000 03/31/2006

Correction – They’ve spent more than 40k, according to this article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (July 6, 2006: “Community College of Allegheny County spent more than $300,000 on outside lawyers and political consultants last fiscal year, including $85,857 to two lobbyists in the nation’s capital….said the use of lobbyists by community colleges has grown in recent years in an attempt to get earmarks…”)

(Hat tips to ocschuylkill and Tribune-Review; this has been interesting.)

I couldn’t help but thing of this article (and this follow-up) from Inside Higher Ed noting that investing in K Street pays off for colleges and universities. The Center of Public Integrity put together this story on the explosive growth of public universities and local government expenditures reported by registered lobbyists:

Lobbying activity reported on behalf of public entities spiked during the past six years, with expenditures by universities, for example, more than* doubling between 1998 and 2003 to $25 million*. Meanwhile, local government spending on lobbyists increased about 110 percent to $70 million*. For states, the figure went up 87 percent to about $10 million*.

The increase is almost inevitable, [Keith] Ashdown [of Taxpayers for Common Sense] said. Once local governments realize the return hiring a lobbyist can bring, the natural reaction is to reinforce that advantage by spending even more.

“[The result is] this perpetual cycle of having to hire more hired guns to get more federal dollars,” he said. Lobbyists for state and local governments and public schools listed appropriations bills as their area of legislative interest on 54 percent of disclosure forms filed since 1998, the Center found. Other top issues were transportation, federal education programs and spending and environmental issues including spending on the superfund cleanup program.

And over at Captain’s Quarters, commenter TK Allen notes something which I gather came from the third of these three excellent charts put together by the prolific N.Z. Bear:

I don’t have any spending proposals being considered by Congress but, if I did, I would be absolutely sure to include the phrase “facilities and equipment”. Of the 1,811 projects (worth $503,085,100) listed, this phrase is used in 469 projects (26%) worth $158,879,000. Of course, if you just use the word “facilities” (without “equipment”) you can add another 19 projects worth $7,850,000. The big winner, though, is “equipment”. You can add another 228 projects worth $61,061,000 for just “equipment”. So, if I use the words “facilities” and/or “equipment” in my proposal, I figure I have about a 40% chance of being funded.

Nice to know that there’s such specificity, precision and transparency in our laws…