Even though Republicans have come to power in Congress by inveighing against earmarking, the pernicious practice of tucking pet projects in spending bills to benefit certain constituencies, some Republicans have found different methods to do the same thing.
According to the New York Times, newly elected Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois used a particular method of earmarking called “lettermarking” to get pet projects funded while he was a House member.
“Mr. Kirk, for example, sent a letter to the Department of Education dated Sept. 10, 2009, asking it to release money ‘needed to support students and educational programs’ in a local school district. The letter was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the group Citizens Against Government Waste , which shared it with The New York Times.
“The district, Woodland School District 50, said it later received about $1.1 million in stimulus money.
“In response to questions about the letter, a spokeswoman for Mr. Kirk defended the practice of reaching out to federal agencies to secure financing for constituents.
“‘Senator-elect Kirk became the first member of the Appropriations Committee to stop requesting earmarks and voted against the stimulus bill,’ the spokeswoman, Susan Kuczka, said in a prepared statement. ‘He has and will continue to be an advocate for his Illinois constituents before administration agencies but will not request Congressional earmarks to be included in House or Senate legislation.'”
Meaning that soon-to-be-Senator Kirk is against earmarks placed in bills so that pet projects can be funded. But he is certainly all for writing a letter to put the arm on an agency head to make sure those same pet projects get funded anyway.
By any other name, it stinketh just as bad.
For those members of Congress who do not want to leave a paper trail, there is “phonemarking,” in which a senator or congressman picks up the phone and calls an agency head. The lawmaker promises the agency head that he or she will support funding for that year’s agency budget provided that certain projects the member of Congress desires get funded.
Mind, one has to admire in gape-mouthed wonder at the audacity. To suggest that lettermarking or phonemarking is not as pernicious as earmarking is like a pick pocket suggesting that what he does is not as bad as what an armed robber does.
All this demonstrates is that the Tea Party movement and other good government groups do not need to rest on their laurels just because an important election has been won. Congressmen and senators, like teenagers, require constant adult supervision. Otherwise, the people we send to Washington will just do things like this because, like a teenager getting drunk and engaging in unprotected sex, siphoning from the treasury for political benefit is just what congressmen do naturally.
Thus, the constituents of people like senator-elect Kirk are going to have to once again give up TV and bingo night to trudge over to the townhall meetings and engage their representatives about lettermarking and phonemarking. If a senator or congressman gets caught doing those things, they need to feel the wrath of the people.
It is a tiresome thing. One would think we can elect people who promise to behave and then return to the important things like making a living and raising kids. But it is the price of freedom. To comfort ourselves, there are people in Iraq and Afghanistan who are sacrificing much more. Besides, yelling at a congressman can be fun.