Price of Admission for Earmarks?


One of the things I’ve recently been thinking about the perniciousness of earmarks is that they bear a striking resemblance to no-bid contracts: organizations getting federal dollars not necessarily because they’re the best group to do a job, but because they’re more adept at playing the federal funding game than others in the same field.

I figured someone might unearth a few examples that might suggest this is going on, and it appears that the ultra-industrious Gur of Room 8 has done just that. He contrasts two charitable organizations (and let’s be clear: we assume that both do good work), one of which has been favored with earmarks in H.R. 5647, the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill, and the other which got none. One difference between the two groups?

In early 2005, People, Inc. hired themselves a DC lobbying firm. And this little lobbying account came with three lobbyists, or at least so shows the latest registration.

And ever since, the three lobbyists made ample contributions to DC electeds, Rep Brian Higgins and Rep Thomas Reynolds prominent among them (click on each of the lobbyists’ names to view their respective contributions: Jonathan Orloff, Patrick Gould, Christopher Knospe).

The nonprofit that hires the lobbying firm gets earmarks. The nonprofit that doesn’t gets, to borrow the phrase from Huey Long, “Good Government.” Worth noting, of course, that it’s not at all clear that the other organization asked for an earmark, but I’m not sure that that’s entirely relevant here. One of the questions we’ve had for a while is why one group–whether a company, a university or a nonprofit–gets an earmark. Is playing the Washington game the price of admission?

There’s much more over at Room 8 on this, including a revolving door lobbyist, an admission that the lobbying firm “has met with Congressman Higgins and staff several times,” from a Higgins staffer, and a discovery about the close resemblance of language in a lobby disclosure report and in our list of earmarks.

Read the whole thing…