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January 22, 2007
The New York Times Hearts Porkers

The New York Times' Nicholas Confessore really needs a remedial civics lesson -- and so do a few New York politicians. In an article covering the pork-barrel controversies in the state, Confessore reports that some officeholders want to defend earmarks from the state budget for home-district vote-buying as -- get this -- the "purest expression of self-government":

To some people, member items — the grants that lawmakers award, with little debate and much secrecy, to community groups and pet projects back in their home districts — symbolize the worst of New York’s political culture. Member items have gone to fix the roof of a hunting club near Albany, help finance a pro-wrestling hall of fame in Schenectady and, most infamously, open a cheese museum in the city of Rome.

But to Dale M. Volker, a Republican state senator from western New York, member items are nothing less than the Legislature’s purest expression of self-government and a bulwark against power-grubbing governors through the ages. It is a sentiment echoed by other lawmakers, who in interviews offered spirited defenses of such spending.

“I personally believe it is the biggest democratization of the Legislature in all the years that I’ve been there,” Mr. Volker, a 32-year veteran of the Senate, said in an interview. “I contend that the reason we cannot get rid of member items is that it would reduce the power of democracy in the Legislature. The problem we have is, a lot of our people truly believe in democracy.”

Wait -- I have to pick myself up out of a dead faint from the laughter. Self-government? No. Self-government would mean that funding for these district projects would come entirely from the district itself. Self-government means, er, self, not grubbing money from other people to pay for your own vanity projects.

And if anyone doubts the corrosive influence of earmarks and pork-barrel spending, take a look at New York. They have had scandal after scandal regarding the misuse of earmarks for personal purposes. One legislator faces criminal charges for putting earmark money into his own pocket, and another faces charges of skimming from the top of grants he directed to a non-profit in his district.

Confessore spends paragraph after paragraph describing research for Alzheimers, diabetes, and so on. He quotes politicians who claim that only they can comprehend where to direct these grants, rather than having the appropriate government agencies do it with well-established award procedures.

Pork is a drug to politicians, and they will say anything that will continue to feed their addiction. This article contains some of the most ridiculous justifications for legislative pork, made all the more humorous because of the sincerity they try to show. Just like with any other addicts, one can tell they're lying because their lips are moving. What they need is a real show of self-government -- by having the voters of New York toss them out of office. Unfortunately, the politicians aren't the only ones addicted to pork.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 22, 2007 5:23 AM

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