A little pay-for-play in Harry Reid’s earmarks?
posted at 11:36 am on September 20, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
At Liberty Central, Melissa Clouthier finds some highly coincidental spending requests in Harry Reid’s earmark requests for FY2011. Arcata Associates and its owners have spent a lot of money helping Reid retain his Senate seat, and all of that effort appears to have paid off in a couple of earmarks Reid has proposed for the still-nonexistent FY2011 budget. In fact, it looks as though an investment of $130,000 has helped Arcata get a $1.36 million earmark in FY2010’s budget and a $3 million earmark next year:
It appears that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to reward Arcata Associates, a big Democratic donor, a huge no-bid contract on the heels of two separate $10,000 (maximum) donation to the Nevada Democrat party.
Senator Harry Reid, along with his House cohort Nancy Pelosi, promised to drain the swamp when they took full control of Congress. Their behavior since taking office would indicate the exact opposite has happened.
In fiscal year 2010, Arcata won a 1.36 million dollar contract for the Continuous Threat Alert Sensing System (CTASS) according to OpenSecrets.org after spending $50,000 to lobby the Senate. What the site fails to mention are the multitude of Arcata donations to Harry Reid and the Nevada Democrat Party. In addition, Arcata stands to gain another two million dollars in 2011, also a no-bid earmark directed by Senator Reid. The requests for these earmarks can be found here and here.
The Wong family, owners of Arcata Associations, have a long history of donating generously to Harry Reid. Their donations are over $130,000. Here is a PDF of all the donations.
Reid and others in Congress defend the earmarking process by claiming that the Constitution vests Congress with the authority to appropriate funds, not the executive branch, and that earmarks more closely represent the intentions of the founders. That’s absurd on several levels, but let’s focus on one pragmatic consequence of the earmarking process for this example. The executive branch agencies have bid processes for purchasing systems and services, which in theory at least create competition and better outcomes and reduce bias in procurement. Earmarks bypass the bid process entirely. Arcata Associates doesn’t have to worry about competitors producing a better product, because Reid has in effect already picked the winner.
It’s just another example of Congress refusing to live by the same rules and regulations they impose on others. In this case, that has big implications for waste, fraud, inefficiency, low quality procurements, and corruption.
In North Carolina’s 2nd CD, we can see another aspect of the earmark/endorsement complex. As challenger Renee Ellmers pointed out over the weekend, Rep. Bob Etheridge gained the endorsement of Four Oaks Mayor Linwood Parker in campaign ad that doesn’t quite explain Parker’s enthusiasm for Etheridge:
Bob Etheridge is now running a TV ad where several of his supporters praise him – but what the ad doesn’t explain is at least two of the Etheridge supporters received ‘Stimulus Fund’ checks, thanks to Etheridge.
Mr. Linwood Parker is an example. Mr. Parker is a partner in a development near Four Oaks and back in August Etheridge handed him a $340,000 check – stimulus funds. Now, in return Mr. Parker has endorsed Bob Etheridge in his TV ad, saying, “Congressman Etheridge did not allow politics to stand in the way of job creation.”
Of course, the fact is, Etheridge’s grant to Parker (and Parker’s endorsement) was nothing but politics.
Here’s the picture of Etheridge handing the ceremonial check to Parker from the Porkulus earmark:
Pay close attention to the name on the check, where the account owner’s name usually goes. It’s hard to read, but it says “Congressman Bob Etheridge,” not “The American Taxpayer.” Etheridge considered Porkulus money as his own piggy bank to buy support in his home district, which is exactly why we called the Obama-Pelosi stimulus bill “Porkulus” in the first place.
Update: Here is the complete research on Reid’s pay-for-play pork politics.