Great news: Congress discovers exciting new ways to earmark

posted at 8:19 pm on December 28, 2010 by Allahpundit

Maybe I’ve been wrong all along. Maybe it really is time for a third party.

Though Mr. Kirk and other Republicans thundered against pork-barrel spending and lawmakers’ practice of designating money for special projects through earmarks, they have not shied from using a less-well-known process called lettermarking to try to direct money to projects in their home districts…

Lettermarking, which takes place outside the Congressional appropriations process, is one of the many ways that legislators who support a ban on earmarks try to direct money back home.

In phonemarking, a lawmaker calls an agency to request financing for a project. More indirectly, members of Congress make use of what are known as soft earmarks, which involve making suggestions about where money should be directed, instead of explicitly instructing agencies to finance a project. Members also push for increases in financing of certain accounts in a federal agency’s budget and then forcefully request that the agency spend the money on the members’ pet project…

[A] New York Times review of letters and e-mail to government agencies from members of Congress shows that the practice is widespread despite the fact that both President George W. Bush and President Obama have issued executive orders instructing agencies not to finance projects based on communications from Congress.

According to the Times, there’s basically no way to track these requests short of using FOIA to demand correspondence between Congress and various agencies. Another fun fact: Both Obama and Bush issued executive orders instructing agencies not to fund projects based on requests from individual congressmen — and yet, oddly enough, the Times claims the practice is “widespread.” Why do you suppose that is? Why might an agency head, whose budget depends on congressional appropriations, feel compelled to comply with “requests” from individual representatives for a few million dollars of pork here and there?

What’s most depressing about this, I think, isn’t the betrayal of transparency or even the hypocrisy of being loudly anti-earmark yet quietly pro-lettermark, it’s that it’s yet another example of government trying to do an end-around recently imposed limits on its own power. In this case, that limit was self-imposed by the GOP’s pledge to end earmarks; in the case of last night’s post about countermeasures to executive regulations, that limit was imposed on the White House by voters who chose divided government in November. And yet the GOP presses ahead with lettermarks and Obama presses ahead with pursuing his agenda by ignoring Congress to whatever extent he can. Nothing illegal about either, but they’re proof that not even a giant midterm landslide is enough of a signal to convince some pols to change their ways. Some “representation.”

Incidentally, since we’ve been arguing lately about whether the House of Representatives should be expanded, take a minute to read this smart Jay Cost post about how a bigger House could also mean more pork. The more districts we have, the smaller and more parochial they’ll get, which could be a huge benefit to incumbents who are willing and able to deliver lucrative earmarks back home.


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Maybe I’ve been wrong all along. Maybe it really is time for a third party.

Which will be in power two weeks before it’s justifying earmarks.

amerpundit on December 28, 2010 at 8:22 PM

Earmarks have ended. New term is a kirkmark. Same crap different day. It never stops, fk em all.

arnold ziffel on December 28, 2010 at 8:27 PM

It’s about time to take taxpayer money out of their hands. We revolt by not paying taxes. File 100 dependents or however you do it. They can’t arrest us all. Corporations are already leaving the Country in droves. Where will they get the money? Then, we attack them at the ballot box again and again and again. We need to take the Country back NOW before it’s too late.

suzyk on December 28, 2010 at 8:28 PM

The Times actually deserves a lot of credit for running this story now, before the new Congress begins, instead of having it show up in the middle of the session, after the lettermarks are all in place and funded.

Expect FOIA requests aplenty coming up, possibly from both liberals and conservatives looking to see if the Republicans are trying to pull an end-around on project funding (and the fact this does make the GOP look bad was likely an added boost forbthe Times to expose the letter marking practice).

jon1979 on December 28, 2010 at 8:29 PM

Yep, heard all about this on the Limbaugh show today. A certain new Republican Senator from Illinois has some explaining to do… Agree with the commenter above; FK them all.

Keemo on December 28, 2010 at 8:30 PM

whose goddamned money do they think it is anyways?

Aquateen Hungerforce on December 28, 2010 at 8:31 PM

Mark Kirk being a weaselly RINO- unpossible!
All these skunks can do to justify their existence is spend other peoples money.

jjshaka on December 28, 2010 at 8:31 PM

Jon Tester is getting much heat here in Montana right now for the same earmark bullshit. We the people are not going to stand for this anymore. The spending must stop! Honestly, something really historic is going to happen in this country if these critters don’t listen to the people. The establishment just might bring us all together after all.

Keemo on December 28, 2010 at 8:32 PM

There really is no difference between the GOP and the DEMs. They are all money hungry bastards who need to be thrown out of office and people who have had a real job need to be put in in their place. Term limits is the only answer. If two terms was enough for George Washington, it should be enough for every member of Congress. Throw the bastards out!

flytier on December 28, 2010 at 8:39 PM

Seriously, how hard is it to go to Congress and not make it about money?

What’s up with the no-earmarks guy?

http://chaffetz.house.gov/press-releases/2010/03/chaffetz-no-appropriations-earmarks-for-fy-2011.shtml

Is he for real? If so we need to clone him.

MikeknaJ on December 28, 2010 at 8:46 PM

This goes all the way back to King George where people plied the government for special favors. Adam Smith wrote about it. You have to depend on honorable people in government, and watchful citizens.

It will never end, as long as government has the power to grant special favor.

Skandia Recluse on December 28, 2010 at 8:47 PM

The expansion of the House is only a worry if you add in a hundred or so reps, although if you limit the staff size to ZERO you will see ‘earmarks’ disappear as the only people available to write, read and review legislation are the Congresscritters themselves. If you got rid of the staff at its current size it would be better, and you would wear out the reps in no time at all, too.

Actually, why do these bozos get a personal staff? Are they some sort of aristocracy or something? This should be a job, not a career.

As for the Republicans trying to weasel out… if their leadership can discover some backbone they can nip this in the bud. Just tell every member they have to post up which agencies they contacted and what the topics were and who they talked to and in no time at all the soft earmarks would stop, also.

And if you cut budgets to the bone and cut off some agencies entirely, you will get fewer of the hard or soft earmarks.

I expect a massive change-over in the House in 2012 that won’t ‘help’ either party as the members getting tossed will be Incumbistani either by primaries or elections. To get rid of stupid politician tricks you must get rid of the stupid politicians.

ajacksonian on December 28, 2010 at 8:54 PM

Jon Tester is getting much heat here in Montana right now for the same earmark bullshit. We the people are not going to stand for this anymore. The spending must stop! Honestly, something really historic is going to happen in this country if these critters don’t listen to the people. The establishment just might bring us all together after all.

Keemo on December 28, 2010 at 8:32 PM

They never do pay attention to the law of unintended consequences, do they? Their wurst nightmare is an educated and united citizenry, I sure hope we continue on that path.

bluemarlin on December 28, 2010 at 8:58 PM

The next big event needs to be vast numbers of bus loads of folks who go to DC and camp out in congress. Rotating shifts to watch the floor and call on all the elected and let em know we are sick of their BS. Pick a week when the bums are in town. Other thing is the reverse union ploy. Shut off any dealings with the government,send FOI requests to overwhelm each and every elected official and agency,tie the whole bunch in knots. If your company can afford it do not bid on government contracts and challenge winning bids. Finally we could encourage all retired folks who have a car to drive to DC,fill the car to camp in it and bring the capitol to total gridlock. The voters threw rocks at the Tennessee capitol once not so long ago when encouraged to block a late night attempt Income tax attack, the legislature caved in and went home.. The Russians took over the Parliament,they can not shoot all of y’all.DC is our city we can take it back peacefully by numbers.

Col.John Wm. Reed on December 28, 2010 at 9:00 PM

whose goddamned money do they think it is anyways?

Aquateen Hungerforce on December 28, 2010 at 8:31 PM

They know whose money it is…it’s yours!

Think about 535 spoiled, self-important children suddenly handed an unlimited checkbook that they can use any way they like. That’s what we have.

The reforms have to go deep: no government entities handing out money to private businesses or organizations, all money not spent returned to agencies’ accounts, less spending, and all members of Congress personally liable for any misuse of funds they allocate.

That would be a start….

MrScribbler on December 28, 2010 at 9:04 PM

This is a Blue State Republican. Why are you all criticizing him?

We are all told this is the best we can get in Blue states.

Everybody take a bite of the crap sandwich. The Establishment Republicans SWEAR it’s Peanut Butter & Jelly.

portlandon on December 28, 2010 at 9:08 PM

The next big event needs to be vast numbers of bus loads of folks who go to DC and camp out in congress. Rotating shifts to watch the floor and call on all the elected and let em know we are sick of their BS. Pick a week when the bums are in town. Other thing is the reverse union ploy. Shut off any dealings with the government,send FOI requests to overwhelm each and every elected official and agency,tie the whole bunch in knots. If your company can afford it do not bid on government contracts and challenge winning bids. Finally we could encourage all retired folks who have a car to drive to DC,fill the car to camp in it and bring the capitol to total gridlock. The voters threw rocks at the Tennessee capitol once not so long ago when encouraged to block a late night attempt Income tax attack, the legislature caved in and went home.. The Russians took over the Parliament,they can not shoot all of y’all.DC is our city we can take it back peacefully by numbers.

Col.John Wm. Reed on December 28, 2010 at 9:00 PM

I like the cut of your jib. Well said Colonel.

gary4205 on December 28, 2010 at 9:20 PM

This is a Blue State Republican. Why are you all criticizing him?

We are all told this is the best we can get in Blue states.

Everybody take a bite of the crap sandwich. The Establishment Republicans SWEAR it’s Peanut Butter & Jelly.

portlandon on December 28, 2010 at 9:08 PM

Indeed.

gary4205 on December 28, 2010 at 9:21 PM

They are all ‘better’ and ‘smarter’ than those who feed/sustain them.

Send them all home.

Impertinence is indignant.

Schadenfreude on December 28, 2010 at 9:21 PM

portlandon on December 28, 2010 at 9:08 PM

It’s funny how short lived the euphoria of taking a prominent Democrat seat can be. What is the going percentage rate of Republican votes that we are to satisfied with?

Cindy Munford on December 28, 2010 at 9:23 PM

I tell you what, these jerks are playing with fire and they had better wake up. Does anyone know where I can buy a pitchfork and a torch?

Lizzy on December 28, 2010 at 9:31 PM

Maybe I’ve been wrong all along. Maybe it really is time for a third party.

No it’s time to revolt. How about a good old fashion public lynching?

david kumbera on December 28, 2010 at 9:35 PM

Mail marks (or phone marks) will blow up on those using it, sooner than later as a bribe.

drfredc on December 28, 2010 at 9:38 PM

Time for an email to Boehner. We’re watching. We see this happening. We don’t like it. As leader of the House, make it stop. If you can’t, we’ll find someone who can.

Sincerely,
The People

Seriously thought folks. Contact your Reps and let them know your thoughts on this. Even if you have a good one, I’m sure they talk around the water cooler and a few, “Hey, you might wanna be careful about those (whatever)marks. I’m getting an earful from my people back home” might do some good for the fence-sitters.

miConsevative on December 28, 2010 at 9:54 PM

I can’t wait for the Illinois Idiot Caucus of Hotair comes to comment on how Kirk can’t be blamed for this…this is the best we can do in Illinois…he’s better than Ali G…blah, blah, blah.

And just think, Kirk wasn’t seated until after Thanksgiving. Barely a month in on a six plus year term and we already have the DADT and Kirkmarking betrayals. And those are the ones we know about.

Blarg the Destroyer on December 28, 2010 at 9:57 PM

I’m not from Illinois and I will not defend Kirk or any other politician but this seems pretty ridiculous to me. First of all the letter that the article is based on is from 15 months ago. This is also part of the process that just about every Republican, Democrat, and Independent politician used to try and get approved, budgeted money to go to projects in their state. Money that would go somewhere else if not to them. I am not condoning any practices like this but come on. The Republicans, many who are not even in office yet just agreed to ban earmarks. Does everyone think that all of a sudden our elected crack addicts can just quit cold turkey?

And what about the projects that actually have merit? There has to be a system put in place to shine the light of day on “valid” requests and allow them to be voted for based on their merits. This is a witch hunt before the witch actually shows up to the party.

Allah, this seems like just another post to get people riled up for no particular reason, and to get a lot of posts. Are you sure, or are we sure your not a liberal democrat?

New Patriot on December 28, 2010 at 10:21 PM

Hopefully Tea Partiers will be able to identify the cheaters and primary them.

FloatingRock on December 28, 2010 at 10:33 PM

New Patriot on December 28, 2010 at 10:21 PM

Kirk ran heavily on being “anti-earmark”. This Kirkmarking process is nothing more than sleight of hand and the only reason it was uncovered is because someone got lucky and had a FOIA request go through.

This Kirkmarking was done under the cover of darkness. How many other things has Kirk had Kirkmarked over the years? How many has he Kirkmarked over the past month? We will never know unless we can somehow get a blanket FOIA request to go through, and good luck with that.

Kirk is slime, and shame on anyone who thought he could be trusted.

Blarg the Destroyer on December 28, 2010 at 10:34 PM

Third Party?! All we need is a second party. Kirk is, and always has been, a Democrap at heart. I have no idea why he has run as a Republican all of his career. He voted with Nancy Peloser almost half the time during her reign of stupidity.

The list of his Democrap votes while in the House is just depressing; I refuse to list it again. Captain Ed was his biggest blogger-fan during the campaign…let him defend Kirk.

But for what it’s worth, the Times is referring to a request from over a year ago, before he even announced his candidacy.

Jaibones on December 28, 2010 at 10:38 PM

Yep, heard all about this on the Limbaugh show today. A certain new Republican Senator from Illinois has some explaining to do… Agree with the commenter above; FK them all.

Keemo on December 28, 2010 at 8:30 PM

Though I held my nose and voted for Kirk I’d be more interested in hearing why he supports infanticide.

annoyinglittletwerp on December 28, 2010 at 10:38 PM

The only way to stop this is to eliminate Congress’ ability to spend money.

CrazyGene on December 28, 2010 at 11:07 PM

So, only brand new Senator Republican Mark Kirk and “other Republicans” are doing this? Something is fishy…

Fallon on December 28, 2010 at 11:10 PM

At least we are making the cockroaches scurry. A first step.

Slowburn on December 28, 2010 at 11:12 PM

Blarg the Destroyer on December 28, 2010 at 10:34 PM

I have no doubt that he may be all you say he is but again the letter they refer to is from September of 2009. Secondly I am a little concerned that you refer, multiple times to this whole thing as Kirkmarking as if this is somehow an issue unique to him. Kind of sounds like a personal grudge. And lastly it was from an article in that conservative newspaper the New York Times!

I think we need to hold this new crew accountable based on what they do going forward. I assume that you could find something like this on just about every congressman and/or senator that has been around for more than a year or two. 2011 is going to be an interesting year and we need to shine the light on any of this kind of activity when we can find it.

New Patriot on December 28, 2010 at 11:17 PM

So now we’re bashing members of congress for writing letters of recommendation for schools applying for grants?

Yeah, good luck with that.

I wish you tea party nutjobs would stop threatening the third party BS and just do it already. Put up or shut up.

NoStoppingUs on December 28, 2010 at 11:32 PM

What an amazing discovery indeed!

TheAlamos on December 29, 2010 at 1:04 AM

I wish you tea party nutjobs would stop threatening the third party BS and just do it already. Put up or shut up.

NoStoppingUs on December 28, 2010 at 11:32 PM

We are putting up a**wipe, and that is what pisses you off the most. We have only just begun, as Miss Carpenter so proudly sang…

Keemo on December 29, 2010 at 6:29 AM

Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see how earmarking and lettermarking/phonemarking are the same thing. Earmarking increases the budget; lettermarking doesn’t. Just because a congressman suggests that certain projects be conducted in their district doesn’t mean that the agency can spend beyond their appropriation limits.

I was against earmarking for two reasons. First, earmarks increased the budget. Second, allowing a congressman to insert an earmark into unrelated legislation was a means to pass legislation that would wither and die on the chamber floor.

While I agree that lettermarking is an abuse of power by the legislative branch, I don’t see it in the same league as earmarking. Earmarks often funded projects that the agency had no interest in pursuing, wasted agency resources in trying to accommodate congressional desires, and frequently resulted in no useful product.

RedinPDRM on December 29, 2010 at 8:26 AM

The bottom line is discretionary spending by Congress should be ZERO DOLLARS, and ZERO CENTS. The use of earmarks, lettermarks, kirkmarks, etc, is just congresses way of doing wasteful spending and buying votes.

Dasher on December 29, 2010 at 8:28 AM

I wrote this a week ago to our representative on his defense of earmarks (whom I ran against in the primary).

That’s simply an excuse to continue to rob the tax payer to use earmarks. Congress has the power to legislate. They just don’t want to do their jobs nor do they want to be transparent on lobbying the federal govt. for their pork. They can do something called “lettermarking” to the fed agencies for NECESSARY projects and legislate a transparent request of earmarks to avoid another Abramoff scandal.

If members of Congress were serious about reform and willing to disclose the earmarks they obtain, it should be relatively simple for Congress to bring transparency to the earmarking process, a reform that would likely be far more meaningful to fiscal discipline and government openness than an outright ban on earmarks.

Lettermarking can be a good way to appropriate earmarks but, it will al depend on how they write the bill and how transparent it is.

xler8bmw on December 29, 2010 at 8:59 AM

The bottom line is discretionary spending by Congress should be ZERO DOLLARS, and ZERO CENTS. The use of earmarks, lettermarks, kirkmarks, etc, is just congresses way of doing wasteful spending and buying votes.

While I agree that lettermarking might be congress’s way of buying votes in their district, I wouldn’t put it in the same league as earmarking. In lettermarking, the money has already been appropriated to the agency. Ostensibly, the project/task/construction has to be accomplished for some reason. To me, lettermarking is just the congressman’s way of lobbying to have it accomplished in their district.

I think the NYT is trying to paint the two as total equivalents to 1) demonstrated that Republicans are just as evil as Democrats, 2) diminish support for Republican congressmen.

RedinPDRM on December 29, 2010 at 9:06 AM

I wrote this a week ago to our representative on his defense of earmarks (whom I ran against in the primary).

Ah. One of those people. Tell me, former congressional candidate, does your resume look that much better with “loser” on it?

I’ve never understood people like you. Looking at the results, you had I don’t know how many people running against LoBiondo, yet you still decided to run? If people like you truly cared about this country, you would have dropped out and backed ONE challenger, not split the vote among 10. You tea partiers don’t understand how politics works. 75% of the vote is based on name id alone, which is why incumbents are so often re-elected. Once you had two or more challengers, all that does is split up the vote and make it easier for the incumbent to run. If you guys weren’t so selfish, maybe you’d have a better shot at succeeding.

But who am I to criticize someone who can now drop the “former congressional candidate” card whenever they can.

NoStoppingUs on December 29, 2010 at 9:17 AM

We are putting up a**wipe, and that is what pisses you off the most. We have only just begun, as Miss Carpenter so proudly sang…

Keemo on December 29, 2010 at 6:29 AM

No you aren’t. All of the ‘tea partiers’ you elected were republicans.

If you hate the party so much, please remove yourself from it and start a true third party. Good riddance!

NoStoppingUs on December 29, 2010 at 9:18 AM

And we ask young men and women to go out and die for this crap? Tea Party our work has only begun!

Herb on December 29, 2010 at 10:20 AM

Earmarks, lettermarks, phonemarks?

Let’s mark their ears with lots of phone marks, and Inbox their ears with lots of Email marks! Mark OUR words!!!

Steve Z on December 29, 2010 at 11:09 AM

Ah. One of those people. Tell me, former congressional candidate, does your resume look that much better with “loser” on it?

NoStoppingUs on December 29, 2010 at 9:17 AM

I happen to disagree with him/her about letter-marking but unlike you can register my disagreement civilly. You didn’t even disagree but rather immediately attacked him/her based only on the assumption that he was a “tea party” candidate.

I don’t see any history in this thread that justifies your attack, the only justification seems to that he might have been a “tea party” candidate.

To attack somebody for no real reason as you did probably violates the terms here, (I couldn’t find the terms during a quick look), and so might qualify you to be banned. Do you have any redeeming qualities or are you just a troll? Is there are reason you shouldn’t be banned?

FloatingRock on December 29, 2010 at 12:58 PM

Ah. One of those people. Tell me, former congressional candidate, does your resume look that much better with “loser” on it?

I’ve never understood people like you. Looking at the results, you had I don’t know how many people running against LoBiondo, yet you still decided to run? If people like you truly cared about this country, you would have dropped out and backed ONE challenger, not split the vote among 10. You tea partiers don’t understand how politics works. 75% of the vote is based on name id alone, which is why incumbents are so often re-elected. Once you had two or more challengers, all that does is split up the vote and make it easier for the incumbent to run. If you guys weren’t so selfish, maybe you’d have a better shot at succeeding.

But who am I to criticize someone who can now drop the “former congressional candidate” card whenever they can.

NoStoppingUs on December 29, 2010 at 9:17 AM

Next time maybe you should no what you’re talking about before commenting. I was the front runner in the primary and the other person entered 1 wk before petitions were due! I also, jumped in 4 mths to election time. She should have NEVER eneterd the race. I had the Tea Party and press reports she DID NOT!!!! Apparently you have absolutly not one idea what happens in a campaign.

We understand how it works. I actually spend time in DC and am very well aware of what is going on. Please STFU if you have no idea who I am or what I do and how I am involved. Next time know the facts before commenting.

And yes at least I can say I ran instead of like waste time on on a blog board living in Mommies basement!

xler8bmw on December 29, 2010 at 1:01 PM

Ah. One of those people. Tell me, former congressional candidate, does your resume look that much better with “loser” on it?

I’ve never understood people like you. Looking at the results, you had I don’t know how many people running against LoBiondo, yet you still decided to run? If people like you truly cared about this country, you would have dropped out and backed ONE challenger, not split the vote among 10. You tea partiers don’t understand how politics works. 75% of the vote is based on name id alone, which is why incumbents are so often re-elected. Once you had two or more challengers, all that does is split up the vote and make it easier for the incumbent to run. If you guys weren’t so selfish, maybe you’d have a better shot at succeeding.

But who am I to criticize someone who can now drop the “former congressional candidate” card whenever they can.

NoStoppingUs on December 29, 2010 at 9:17 AM

Maybe you should stop voting for incumbents and get rid of the career politicians as we see they have done such a good job. Do you have any idea of LoBiondo’s voting record NO! Do you also, know he lost his forst race against a long time incumbent but, won the next one. So don’t tell me about elections and how they’re run and what to do! Believe you sound very uneducated as far as that is concerned!

xler8bmw on December 29, 2010 at 1:05 PM

The more districts we have, the smaller and more parochial they’ll get, which could be a huge benefit to incumbents who are willing and able to deliver lucrative earmarks back home.

Hummmmmm….

Maybe if the Federal GubRmint wasn’t rape’n the respective state citizens of their tax dollars and the money was taxed at the state level instead. There would be local control not only on the amounted taxed but what projects the local folks deemed worthy.

But hey …if ya want smaller Government.. just do away with state offices…huh

roflmao

donabernathy on December 30, 2010 at 2:06 AM