Defeated Earmark Disclosure Puts Sham House Rule to Shame


Robert Novak has more on the backdoor maneuvering and dust-up between Sen. Tom Coburn and Sen. Ted Stevens over the issue of disclosing earmarks that he’d alluded to earlier. Coburn sponsored a measure that would require the Pentagon to issue report cards on the utility and effectiveness of projects earmarked by members of Congress; Stevens didn’t care for the scrutiny. The intra-party squabble doesn’t interest me so much as the bottom line:

The earmark process enables the congressional-industrial complex to fund projects the military does not want. This year’s bill appropriates money to buy 10 unrequested C-17 Globemaster cargo planes from Boeing. It also funds 60 F-22A Raptor stealth fighters, not supported by the Pentagon and opposed by McCain and Sen. John Warner, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman. F-22A appropriations are guaranteed for three years, reducing leverage with contractor Lockheed Martin.

Incredibly, page 336 of the bill’s conference report says that under the new House rule purportedly revealing sponsors of earmarks, there were zero earmarks in this year’s Defense money bill. That suggests the transparency rule is as big a sham as its critics have claimed.

As Novak notes, Taxpayers for Common Sense has found that the bill “included 2,837 parochial and politically motivated earmarks worth $11.2 billion dollars.” Either we can asssume that Congress normally counts earmarks in multiples of 10,000 (and rounded 2,837 to zero), or, as some of us critics claimed, the motive behind he House rule on earmarks–which discloses hardly any earmarks at all–was to create the appearance of reform rather than the substance.