December 10, 2007

The Pork Barrel Presidential Candidate

How has Hillary Clinton prepared herself to become the Democratic nominee for President? She hasn't held an executive office, nor has she entered the diplomatic service. She has only one and a third Senate terms for experience. However, she has nurtured a network of supporters and contributors, and as the Los Angeles Times reports, Hillary has used her Senate power to keep them enriched:

Since taking office in 2001, Clinton has delivered $500 million worth of earmarks that have specifically benefited 59 corporations. About 64% of those corporations provided funds to her campaigns through donations made by employees, executives, board members or lobbyists, a review by the Los Angeles Times shows.

All told, Clinton has earmarked more than $2.3 billion in federal appropriations for projects in her state since her election to the Senate, much of it for public works projects funded in conjunction with fellow Democratic Sen. Charles E. Schumer and others in the New York congressional delegation. ....

Her record stands in contrast with others in the Senate seeking the presidency, particularly John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.). McCain, who has long opposed earmarks, does not write them. Obama has used the device, but now declines to earmark funds for private companies; he uses earmarks only to secure funds for government projects such as road building and hospital construction. Other senators seeking the presidency provide earmarks to home-state constituents and collect donations from recipients of the federal largesse. But The Times review found that Clinton does it on a different scale.

For example, in the appropriations bills that have passed the Senate so far this year, Clinton earmarked 216 separate projects for a total of $236.6 million. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) secured $112.8 million; Obama earmarked $90.4 million, and Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) earmarked projects totaling $70.8 million.

Since Clinton arrived in the Senate, she has collected in excess of $1 million from earmark beneficiaries and their associates.

Hillary's big bundlers, the "Hillraisers", have extensive ties to her earmarking. Norman Hsu, now indicted on federal fraud charges, served on the board of the New School, recipients of Hillary's earmarking largesse. James Flaws, CFO of Corning, also raises hundreds of thousands for Hillary while his company gets pork from the candidate. Eight Hillraisers have connections to her earmarks.

While the corruption is obvious, Congress has kept this process legal. Thanks in part to Hillary herself, Congress has not acted to force this kind of quid pro quo out into the open. Other Senators in the presidential race have done much the same, with the notable exception of John McCain, but none as successfully as Hillary. She has raised pork-barrel corruption to an art form -- so much so that even the LA Times has taken its notice.

Fear not, though. Hillary's campaign swears that her earmarks have nothing to do with these campaign contributions. "One thing has nothing to do with the other," her spokesman told the LAT. Of course, Corning used to contribute heavily to the GOP until Hillary started shoveling taxpayer money into the company's coffers, but that has nothing to do with the change of heart shown by Flaws. Neither did the $6 million the New School received when Hsu was doing the shoveling for Hillary.

Hillary has used her Senate seat as a rental property. If allowed back in the White House, we can expect the auctions to continue, but with an inflationary price increase.


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