Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Congressional Pork Helps Vulnerable Democratic Freshmen

This story is classic!

The distribution the congressional pork-barrel spending is tilting heavily Democratic freshmen Members of Congress. USA Today has the line:

A year ago, Democrats won control of Congress in part by criticizing billions of dollars spent on pet projects. Now, freshmen Democrats are benefiting from the same kind of spending, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

All 49 of the new Democratic lawmakers sponsored or co-sponsored at least one project — known as an "earmark" — inserted into the House and Senate spending bills, the analysis found. Freshmen Democrats were the sole sponsors on projects worth $351 million, an average of $7.6 million. Republicans got approval for projects worth $65 million, or $5 million each.

The analysis found that some of the most vulnerable freshmen Democrats in next year's election were among those who got the most money: Eight of the top 10 House freshmen earmark sponsors defeated Republican incumbents, and five won in districts carried by President Bush in 2004.

Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., says Democratic leaders tried to help freshmen like him who are on a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee list of the most vulnerable incumbents. "I think I got a boost from being on that list," says Yarmuth, No. 9 among House freshmen as the sole sponsor of $10.5 million in earmarks.

That shows political considerations, not merit, get earmarks into spending legislation, says Steve Ellis of the non-partisan group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

"It's like earmarks are the door prize for being a member of Congress," Ellis says.

Most of those earmarks remain in limbo, since only the defense bill has become law. Bush vetoed one bill and has threatened to veto others. House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., said the impasse may result in one combined spending bill without any earmarks.

There you go - political hypocrisy at its finest! The Democrats were hammering the Republican majority over the pork in last year's elections.

Look at that photo of bullying John Murtha above: He's shaking hands with Rep. Christopher Carney, a freshman Democrat from a traditionally-GOP House district. Carny scored big on earmarks this year - at $18.2 million, he took in the most among first-timers, independently sponsoring 21 pork-barrel projects.

I blogged about John Murtha's spending largesse earlier. In fact, I defended the congressional pork-barrel as a traditional practice of constituency service and credit claiming. But stories like this demonstrate precisely why earmarks are often bad public policy: They're vehicles for political patronage and corruption.