June 8, 2007

Roll Out The Pork Barrel For HASC

The Hill reports on an old-fashioned pork pull at the House Armed Services Committee, but only a few select guests can enjoy the festivities. Appropriators on the HASC have earmarked millions of dollars that primarily benefit their lobbyist friends. The top two offenders show the bipartisan nature of pork:

Rep. Jim Saxton (R-N.J.), ranking member of the Air and Land Forces defense subcommittee, reaped the most money from employees working at firms that would benefit from his funding requests.

During the last election cycle and the first three months of this year, Saxton’s campaign collected 118 contributions worth $91,000 from the employees and political action committees (PACs) of firms such as Lockheed Martin, L-3 Communications, Price Systems and NetIDEAS.

Saxton has also requested millions of dollars in project spending for these companies. He solicited $3 million for L-3 Communications, which has a facility in Camden, N.J., to develop a high-resolution digital recorder; and $25 million in additional funding for Lockheed Martin to work on the Aegis ballistic missile defense system.

That's the blue ribbon in this national hog-calling contest. The Democrats get second and third place:

Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.) requested $5.98 million for AmeriQual, a company based in his district, to develop high-pressure packaging for the military. Employees of AmeriQual contributed over $10,000 to his campaign during the first three months of this year. They gave around $5,000 in the 2006 election cycle. ...

Since January, Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) received 27 contributions totaling $7,500 from employees of Electric Boat, based in Groton, Conn. Courtney asked the leaders of his committee to authorize an additional $70 million for Electric Boat’s “Virginia Class” submarine program.

By the way, both Ellsworth and Courtney are freshmen in the new, anti-Culture of Corruption Congress. They got elected by running on that same campaign plank that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid articulated all during last year -- that the Republicans had grown too cozy with lobbyists and too corrupt as a result. It didn't take long for the Democrats to pick up where their Republican predecessors left off.

Others receive honorable mention from The Hill. They include Duncan Hunter, currently running for President, who got thousands from the employees of companies that received his earmarks. Loretta Sanchez got thousands from the corporate PACs of Orange County, CA companies that received her largesse, as well as thousands more from an employee group at a lobbying firm that represents defense contractors. Marty Meehan also got thousands from five companies that benefitted from his line-item approach to appropriations.

That's the entire problem. Instead of simply funding the Pentagon and allowing them to make the decisions on spending, Congress has allowed its members to specify the allocations themselves. That gives the appropriators very specific control on how the Pentagon operates, which in theory sounds great, but in practice gives politicians far too much power and creates an almost-irresistable impulse for corruption.

If earmarks were eliminated, the lobysists would not spend millions of dollars on re-election campaigns. It would make it a bit more difficult for incumbents to run for re-election, although not all that much more of a burden from their current 96% re-election rate. They would have little leverage over other members of Congress as well, who must kowtow to the appropriators in order to get their funding priorities addressed.

We know the problem. We need to elect representatives who want to eliminate it. So far, the Democrats have proven incapable of doing so, just as the Republicans did for the previous twelve years.


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Comments (5)

Posted by daytrader | June 8, 2007 8:53 AM

The rude awakening behind all the positioning on this bill, including all the stories of distress ESCR could reduce and cures possible, the main point neglected to be brought to light is that everything ESCR can do, ASC can do the equivalent thing without risk of body rejection since those cells generate from the host body.

There are thousand of chemical steps required to get ESC to the same functional level as ASC and there is no reason to believe the body will not try to reject the ESC product produced.

The single driving force behind this legislation is the fact that under current law ESC production can obtain a patent related to it and you can not for ASC.

Posted by jpe | June 8, 2007 9:24 AM

Instead of simply funding the Pentagon and allowing them to make the decisions on spending

Do we have any reason to think the Pentagon would be substantially better?

Posted by Papa Ray | June 8, 2007 9:37 AM

"Do we have any reason to think the Pentagon would be substantially better?"

No we don't, and in the areas and projects that they do have "control", they do just as bad if not worse.

If anyone wants to really get upset, mad or otherwise pissed off, subscribe to "Pentagon Today".

Or talk to those that have worked in that eight sided nuthouse.

Papa Ray
West Texas

Posted by jpe | June 8, 2007 11:21 AM

It didn't take long for the Democrats to pick up where their Republican predecessors left off.

If the Reps were still in power, we wouldn't even know about these earmarks. From the article:

Saxton’s and other lawmakers’ requests are publicly available for the first time because of new ethics rules the House passed when Democrats took control of the lower chamber in January.

Dicey legislation isn't defeated by promising to be really good people (the naive GOP solution), but by creating procedural mechanisms that spread sunlight on the whole affair and produce pressure on legislators to keep away from pork.

So thanks for being part of the Democratic plan. This post was exactly what was envisioned by the new Democratic majority.

Or talk to those that have worked in that eight sided nuthouse.

We can safely assume that the 3 new sides were bought by the octagon lobby.

Posted by docjim505 | June 8, 2007 9:23 PM

Call me draconian, but I think that elected officials who engage in this sort of corruption should be executed. Slowly.

I realize that we're asking too much too expect members of Congress ("You will never find a greater hive of scum and villany") to be honest, but at least we can try to frighten them into toeing the line. And if they still won't... Well, I've read that medieval Europeans got a big kick out of watching heretics burn at the stake. No reason to think that watching corrupt members of Congress sizzle like a sausage on the grill won't be equally amusing.