Earmarking Money for Pennsylvania Abstinence Programs

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Over the weekend, I noticed that Thomas has posted the Senate conference report for S. 3708, the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriation Bill, which is the companion measure to the House bill that several groups have launched an online effort to investigate.

I took a quick spin through the Senate conference report, and found these earmarks, all from Pennsylvania, to be of passing interest:

A+ For Abstinence, Waynesboro, PA for abstinence education and related services — $100,000
Catholic Social Services, Wilkesbarre, PA for abstinence education and related services — 100,000
City of Chester, Bureau of Health, Chester, PA for abstinence education and related services — 100,000
Crozer Chester Medical Center, Upland, PA for abstinence education and related services — 100,000
George Washington Carver Community Center, Norristown, PA for abstinence education and related services — 100,000
Guidance Center, Ridgeway, PA for abstinence education and related services — 100,000
Heart Beat, Millerstown, PA for abstinence education and related services — 100,000
Keystone Central School District, Mill Hall, PA for abstinence education and related services — 100,000
Keystone Economic Development Corporation, Johnstown, PA for abstinence education and related services — 100,000
Lackawanna Trail School District, Factoryville, PA for abstinence education and related services — 100,000
LaSalle University, Philadelphia, PA for abstinence education and related services — 110,000
Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA for abstinence education and related services — 110,000
My Choice Inc., Athens, PA for abstinence education and related services — 100,000
Neighborhood United Against Drugs, Philadelphia, PA for abstinence education and related services — 135,000
New Brighton School District, New Brighton, PA for abstinence education and related services — 100,000
Nueva Esperanza, Philadelphia, PA for abstinence education and related services — 100,000
Partners for Healthier Tomorrows, Ephrata, PA for abstinence education and related services — 100,000
Rape & Victim Assistance Center of Schuylkill County, Pottsville, PA for abstinence education and related services — 100,000
Real Commitment, Gettysburg, PA for abstinence education and related services — 100,000
School District of Lancaster, Lancaster, PA for abstinence education and related services — 100,000
School District of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA for abstinence education and related services — 100,000
Shepherd’s Maternity House, Inc, Stroudsburg, PA for abstinence education and related services — 100,000
To Our Children’s Future with Health, Inc, Philadelphia, PA for abstinence education and related services — 110,000
Tuscarora Intermediate Unit, McVeytown, PA for abstinence education and related services — 100,000
Urban Family Council, Philadelphia, PA for abstinence education and related services — 360,000
Victim Resource Center, Franklin, PA for abstinence education and related services — 100,000
Washington Hospital Teen Outreach, Washington, PA for abstinence education and related services — 135,000
Women’s Care Center, Erie County, Abstinence Advantage, Erie, PA for abstinence education and related services — 135,000
York County Human Life Services, York, PA for abstinence education and related services — 100,000

That’s 29 earmarks for Pennsylvania abstinence education and related services, for a total cost of $3,305,000 from the Senate bill. The House version, by contrast, contains one earmark for $25,000 to “Expand educational methods of the Responsible Social Values program and to update technology for Abstinence the Better Choice, Inc.” in Akron, Ohio.

The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (about whom I know next to nil and who are opposed to abstinence programs in general) fingers Pennsylvania’s senior senator:

Once again, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) has included earmarks for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in his home state of Pennsylvania in the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS) appropriations bill. The decision to reinstate his now infamous earmarks in the Fiscal Year 2007 Labor-HHS bill has caused great concern among Pennsylvania’s advocates and came as a surprise to many as Senator Specter did not allow any earmarks, whatsoever, in last year’s Labor-HHS spending bill. As Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees Labor-HHS funding levels, Senator Specter has great discretion over funds within the Labor-HHS appropriations bill.

Worth noting the motive they site:

Opponents of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs see this renewal of earmarks by Senator Specter as political pork-barrel spending and an attempt to appease the religious right of the Republican Party in his state. This is particularly salient as Pennsylvania ‘s junior Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) is running for reelection this November in a tight race against Democrat Bob Casey. Some see Senator Specter’s earmarks as an attempt to shore up support from the state’s conservative constituency and to help Senator Santorum with his tough reelection campaign.

Also worth noting that the total amount budgeted for abstinence education is considerably more than the $3 million plus going to the Keystone State:

Abstinence Education

The Committee recommends $113,400,000 for fiscal year 2007 for community-based abstinence education. The comparable funding level for fiscal year 2006 is $113,325,000 and the budget request includes $141,165,000 for this program. Within the Committee recommendation, $108,900,000 is provided for community-based abstinence education, $4,500,000 is provided through an evaluation set-aside, as requested by the administration. In addition, $50,000,000 is available from pre-appropriated mandatory funds.

One would think that with so much money budgeted for community-based abstinence eduation, there would be no need to eamark individual sums for Pennsylvania’s programs. But the fortunate beneficiaries of Senate earmarks, don’t have to deal with a federal bureaucracy or a messy grant application process to get a chunk of that money–their funding is in the bag.

I left a message with Sen. Specter’s office to see whether the earmarks were indeed his; when I hear back I’ll add their response.