New GOP campaign tactic: Reveal who’s behind the pork

By MARGARET TALEV
McClatchy Newspapers

The Republican-led House of Representatives will vote this week on two measures that could help reveal who’s behind billions of dollars in pork-barrel spending each year.

That could help Republicans appeal to fiscally conservative voters who are frustrated by Congress’s runaway spending and threatening to stay home from the polls in November.


Taxpayer-watchdog groups praise the sentiment behind House Majority Leader John Boehner’s decision to schedule these votes, but he’s being squeezed between lawmakers who are reluctant to cede power and critics who say the legislation doesn’t respond forcefully enough to a spate of congressional corruption scandals.

The first measure, approved by the Senate and slated for final House approval on Wednesday, would create a centralized, online search engine for government contracts, making it easier for the public to track who’s receiving government dollars and how the money is being spent.

The second, a proposed change to House rules, would identify the lawmakers behind special-interest projects known as "earmarks."

Tens of thousands of earmarks are tucked anonymously into massive spending and tax bills each year. Citizens Against Government Waste identified 13,997 earmarks worth $27.3 billion in appropriations bills last year alone. Critics of pork-barrel politics say that attaching lawmakers’ names to earmarks could curb abuses of the process, although lawmakers often trumpet the earmarks they win for projects when they think their constituents or contributors want them.

Boehner, R-Ohio, said Tuesday that the two measures are a start but don’t eliminate the need for more comprehensive lobbying reform after the conviction of ex-Rep. Duke Cunningham, R-Calif., on bribery charges; the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal that’s touched several members of Congress; and a corruption investigation into Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., who’s accused of stashing a $90,000 in cash in a freezer.

"If you look at the members who’ve gotten themselves in trouble, it was over the illicit use of earmarks," Boehner said. "I just think that bringing transparency and accountability to this process is in everyone’s best interests."

Some campaign-finance watchdogs consider these proposals a diversion, however.

Tom Schatz, the president of Citizens Against Government Waste, said of the House plans: "It’s better than nothing. It should provide a lot more transparency. Whether it means they’ll be more accountable and do less remains to be seen."

Lobbying reform legislation has stalled in negotiations between the House and Senate. Critics say neither chamber has gone far enough to cut down on lawmakers’ financial relationships with lobbyists.

Details of the House earmark proposal were still changing Tuesday, but there appeared to be some loopholes, especially in identifying lawmakers behind projects in tax and authorization bills, as opposed to appropriations measures.

That drew fire from members of the House Appropriations Committee, who don’t want the burden of disclosure to fall disproportionately on them. "We have strong support among our members as long as it applies across the board," said committee spokesman John Scofield.

6 Responses to "New GOP campaign tactic: Reveal who’s behind the pork"

  1. Dot  September 13, 2006 at 6:32 pm

    I’m confused, wasn’t that Sen Barack Obamas bill?
    The one that got held up by the Alsakan *bridge to no-where* Senator?

  2. Big Time Patriot  September 13, 2006 at 6:45 pm

    How could this possibly help Republicans? As the party in power the greatest majority of pork would have to be linked directly to individual Republican congress people at this point. Listing the pork that Republicans have charged on the “tax cuts – deficit spending” credit card will NOT make fiscal conservatives (Republican OR Democrat OR independent) very happy. I really miss where the conclusion of this article is connected logically to the facts presented.

    As the previous commenter said, isn’t this particular measure being pushed by Democrats as much or more than Republicans? Does the writer think that fiscal conservatives won’t notice that the REPUBLICAN led congress is resisting any substantial reform of earmark and lobbyist abuse of the spending system? This article seems like a typical case of “whatever happens it’s good for Republicans”. If the bill had been quashed by Ted Stevens (REPUBLICAN) would the writer then written an article titled “Defeat of Democratic measure helps Republicans”?

    Measures revealing spending of the Republican incumbent majority in the biggest spending government ever is NOT a help to the incumbent party.

  3. Mike  September 13, 2006 at 10:18 pm

    Don’t you realize that this is just anothe “bait & switch” game? Boehner and others will talk about something like this to get voters on their side, then after 11/8, it will evaporate from the legislative agenda. And it will be back to “business as usual” on Capitol Hill.

  4. Rice Farmer  September 14, 2006 at 2:28 am

    All I can say is, if politicians want to show who’s behind pork, things must be really desperate. There must be something more to it than this.

  5. doug  September 18, 2006 at 7:23 pm

    With a republican controlled Congress and a republican White House, all pork is republican approved no matter who initiated it.

  6. Fovosal  September 19, 2006 at 2:11 pm

    Really interesting site. Cool site, interesting information.

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