There’s been a whirlwind of earmark activity of late, with the two Democratic presidential candidates joining the all-but-nominated Republican candidate in backing an effort by Sen. Jim DeMint to institute a one-year moratorium on earmarks. In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is considering a similar ban, and Rep. Jeff Flake, as anti-earmark as any member of Congress, takes it seriously enough to worry that Democrats will get the credit for ending earmarks rather than Republicans.
Independent bloggers and organizations like Porkbusters, Americans for Prosperity, the National Taxpayers Union, Citizens Against Government Waste and of course Taxpayers for Common Sense deserve a tremendous amount of credit for driving this issue so hard and so long.
My own member of Congress, Rep. James Moran, is no stranger to the lucrative rewards of earmarking. From his perch on the Appropriations Committee, he offers his view of the rest of his colleagues:
“I think this is one of those political fads that’s having its time right now, just like campaign finance reform. … I don’t blame the presidential candidates, but I sure blame a lot of members who will be the first ones to denounce earmarks and also be the first ones in line to ensure that [House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John] Murtha [D-Pa.] puts money in the Defense bill for their district,” he said. “I think that some of these members who define the term hypocrisy ought to be the first ones to lose their earmarks. If all of us lose it, so be it, we’ll still survive. But I think it does a real disservice to Congress and our constituents to eliminate earmarks.” Moran, who worked as a budget analyst at the former Health, Education and Welfare Department during the Nixon administration, said, “We earmarked every dime we could.”
And, I suspect, so would they again as soon as the one-year moratorium expired. Since the Senate gutted earmark transparency, Senators could earmark those dimes (amounting to billions of dollars) with no disclosure of the beneficiaries. The way to reform earmarking is to bring the process out of the smoke-filled rooms and into the light of day.