Congressional Quarterly has done a service to those interested in keeping our elected officials accountable and pointing out the corrupting nature of earmarks.
The House’s most outspoken critics of what they say is unnecessary military spending would secure nearly half a billion dollars in the defense appropriations bill for programs in their districts the Pentagon does not want.
Sixty-seven Democrats who voted in March for a Progressive Caucus amendment to the budget resolution (H Con Res 99) that would cut defense spending by 21 percent and shift the money to domestic priorities successfully lobbied the Appropriations Committee this summer to add their local projects to the defense-spending measure (HR 3222), which the House passed Aug. 5. They obtained $485 million worth of programs not sought by the military, including missile launchers, blimps and self-inflating sleep pads, according to data compiled by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan research group.
Those Democrats who won earmarks include Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, a presidential candidate who has frequently assailed what he calls the “bloated” defense budget, and Californians Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee, the co-chairs of the Out of Iraq Caucus, an antiwar coalition in the House. In addition to their repeated calls to slash the Pentagon budget and end U.S. involvement in Iraq, they have proposed establishing a Department of Peace and Nonviolence.
Indeed, nine of the 12 Democrats who voted against the $459.6 billion defense spending bill nonetheless successfully lobbied to get their earmarks into the measure. The nine are Kucinich, Lee, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Barney Frank of Massachusetts, John Lewis of Georgia, Jim McDermott of Washington and Donald M. Payne of New Jersey
What are some of these earmarks?
Kucinich: $1 million for a "highpower, lightweight zinc-air battery" made by Energizer Battery Manufacturing, Inc. -- in his district.
Waters: $1 million for Sidewinder missile launchers -- made in her district.
Lee: $2 million for a "lithium ion metal battery" and $1 million for the Chabot Space and Science Center (this is the defense budget!) -- in her district.
McDermott: $1 million dollars for gloves! Gloves! Or as the bill put it: “Extended Cold Weather Hand Protection System”
And you've got to love Marcy Kaptur of Ohio.
A member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Kaptur voted for the defense bill even though she voted for the progressive budget resolution that would have cut it sharply. Kaptur was able to secure $58 million in earmarks in the bill. One would provide $4 million for a blimp, described in the defense measure as a “Geospatial Airship Research Platform,” built partly by the Ohio Aerospace Institute in a Cleveland suburb just east of her district.
Kaptur did not return calls requesting comment.
I'm not sure the Republicans got the message in 2006 that their earmarking practices were beyond the pale, but I know that Democrats didn't get the message either.
How much better off would the country be financially if the media as a whole directed some of their coverage, outrage and zealotry currently dedicated to global warming to earmarks instead?