Last week Rep. [sw: Jeff Flake] (R-Ariz.) launched an assault on earmarks in the Defense Appropriations bill by introducing numerous amendments to strip member's earmarks out of the bill. One of the amendments that Flake took aim at was inserted by Speaker [sw: Dennis Hastert] (R-Ill.). Vigorously defending Hastert was Peoria Rep. [sw: Ray LaHood] (R-Ill.) asking on the floor of the House, "Do you know who earmarked this money?" LaHood has previously stated that he will fight conservative lawmakers who challenge earmarks declaring, "I'm not going to take their crap!"
The $2.5 million earmark was for the Illinois Technology Transition Center, which "helps develop new technologies that create jobs". According to LaHood, the center "has aided the Peoria-based Firefly Energy, an offshoot of Caterpillar Inc." What LaHood does not mention is that Firefly Energy and Caterpillar have aided him throughout his career.
The Peoria Journal Star notes that LaHood, a member of the House Appropriations Committee has "included $5 million for Firefly Energy in the House bill," and that Caterpillar, Inc. "would receive $75.2 million, if the Senate doesn't make changes to the bill." The lobbyists at American Defense International, who presumably aided in obtaining these earmarks, had, until the Cunningham and Abramoff scandals broke in January, "served on LaHood's campaign fund-raising committee." LaHood has previously come under fire for earmarking funds to Firefly and Caterpillar because of his ties to their lobbyists.
Caterpillar is the number one contributor to LaHood's congressional career having given the congressman $148,325. Perhaps LaHood's defense of Hastert's earmark was not solely a defense of the Speaker, but a defense of his prime funding source.Continue reading
According to USA Today, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) used the process of earmarks “13 times to set aside $48.7 million for six clients represented by lobbyist Michael Herson and the firm he co-founded, American Defense International.” Herson is married to Specter’s legislative assistant for appropriations Vicki Siegel Herson, who was formerly a lobbyist for defense contractors. Michael Herson’s lobbying firm took in $1.5 million from these clients over the past four years. Specter denies knowing that Herson was involved in these earmarks and said that, “at no time did her husband lobby my office or seek appropriations from any member of my staff.” It is a violation of Senate rules for senators or their staffers to use their position for personal financial gain.Continue reading