Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Even on trial, Stevens pulls in earmarks
By Roxana Tiron
from THE HILL 09/16/08

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) is busy fending off federal charges and scrambling to retain his seat, but that hasn’t affected his appetite for earmarks. Stevens has secured the most earmarks in the Senate defense appropriations bill, according to an analysis by The Hill. The Hill reviewed projects requested by individual members that made it into the spending measure. Stevens’s earmark share in the defense bill is more than $200 million. The indicted senator is likely to tout that haul on the campaign trail.

Senate appropriators recently disclosed close to $3 billion in project requests that were not included in the Pentagon’s budget request for fiscal 2009, according to a calculation by The Hill and Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS). That is more than $2 billion less than what the Senate disclosed last year. Sens. Stevens and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, top the list with about $215 million in earmarks each.
Stevens stands out because he made the majority of requests by himself, sharing only a few with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). By comparison, many of Cochran’s requests come together with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) or other senators.

Stevens relinquished his spot as the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Defense panel in July after being charged with seven counts of concealing more than $250,000 worth of home renovations and gifts from a now-defunct oil-services company, Veco Corp. Cochran stepped in as the ranking member of the Defense panel to replace Stevens. The longest-serving Republican senator has pleaded not guilty and is hoping to clear his name before he faces Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D) in the November election. Stevens last month easily won the GOP primary.
Just like in previous years, Stevens — who stepped down before his panel officially marked up the bill — is once again able to secure funds for a wealth of programs benefiting Alaska.
In fiscal 2008, Cochran and Stevens emerged as the biggest earmark winners across all appropriations bills, according to an analysis conducted by TCS, a nonpartisan watchdog group that tracks earmarks and federal spending.
While it is not unusual for appropriators to secure many earmarks, the party in the majority rakes in the most.According to the TCS analysis, senior Republican appropriators still managed to win more funding for their pet projects than senior Democratic appropriators, although the GOP share shrank significantly. For the 2009 defense-spending bill — the only one marked up in subcommittee so far — Stevens and Cochran appear to continue the trend. Stevens enjoys a very close relationship with Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the chairman of the Appropriations Defense panel. Inouye and Stevens call each other “brother” and contribute to each other’s campaigns.

The majority members usually receive 60 percent of the earmarks; the minority, 40 percent. The two veteran lawmakers have been known to split the earmark amount almost down the middle. Stevens has some close friends on the committee, said TCS’s Keith Ashdown.
“His friends are giving him the juice to go back to his constituents and remind them that he delivers for the state of Alaska,” said Ashdown. “ He's in the fight for his political life."
In fact, Stevens appears to have received a bump in earmark requests from last year. In the fiscal 2008 defense bill, Stevens claimed $195 million in earmarks, according to TCS.
Ashdown added that this time around, “His buddies that he has known for decades and legislated with … have packed this bill with projects for Alaska to make sure that he can show that his experience and what he can bring home should matter in this election. This will be incredibly important for him.”

For the 2009 defense bill, Inouye secured $200 million — a close second to Stevens and Cochran. Stevens touted some of his earmarks as well as his close working relationship with Inouye in a press release. His office sent the press release (which is also posted on the senator’s website) when The Hill requested comment for this article. According to Ashdown, Stevens did not make it a habit to post press releases touting earmarks in the past. This year, with a tough political challenge, Stevens’s achievements are front and center. Among the projects Stevens’s office boasted are: $500,000 for wind power construction at Tin City, Alaska; $10 million for a coal-to-liquids facility at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska; $61.3 million for Air Force and Army ranges in Alaska to improve readiness and interoperability, and $16 million for a C-17 assault landing zone in interior Alaska. Stevens also secured $3 million for the Alaskan National Guard’s counter-drug program, $2 million for hibernation genomics and $4 million for the research and development of an Arctic regional computer. Cochran’s office did not comment for this article.
Meanwhile, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), the dean of Senate appropriations, secured about $170 million in earmarks, according to the disclosure in the bill.
Earmarks are government funds that are allocated by a legislator for a particular pet project, often without proper review. Definitions vary, but earmarks are "allocations of revenue in a bill that are directed to a specific project or recipient typically in a legislator’s home state or district."
The Office of Management and Budget defines them as congressional funds whose recipient has been specified without adherence to the "competitive allocation process."Earmarks appear in appropriation bills and authorization bills, legislation that authorizes the spending of government funds and the existence of programs. They can either be "hard" or "soft." When a bill allocates a specific amount to a project, it’s known as a hard earmark. When the amount isn’t specified, it’s called a soft earmark.
There are a few groups that monitor earmarking in the U.S. Congress. The watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste produces the Congressional Pig Book, which is a yearly compilation (going back to 1991) of earmarks and "pork." CAGW counts as pork any spending project that meets at least one of the group's seven criteria, which include being awarded without competition or without a presidential request. Another nonpartisan group, Taxpayers for Common Sense, has tracked earmarks for fiscal year 2008 and provides databases and analyses for appropriation bills, as well as reports on authorization bills. TCS maintains similar databases back to 2005, but they are only available by request.Both TCS and CAGW advocate against "wasteful" government spending, and their numbers might reflect that.
For instance, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget cites a slightly lower tally than CAGW for 2005 earmarks. OMB, too, provides a searchable database of earmarks (only for years 2005 and 2008), though users can’t search for individual congressional sponsors of earmarks. Previously, bills had to be scanned thoroughly to locate earmarks, but new regulations are making it easier to identify them and their sponsors. Members of the House must now claim their earmarks, identify what the money is for and who will benefit, and state that they have no financial interests in the earmarks. Senate members must make available a list of earmarks, their sponsors and governmental purposes, and post such information online within 48 hours of any vote on a bill. For more information go to


ng2000 said...

Valuable resource of government waste news summaries:

Eskiegirl said...

Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.

Have you ever wondered why, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, we have deficits?

Have you ever wondered why, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, we have inflation and high taxes?

You and I don't propose a federal budget. The President does.

You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does.

You and I don't write the tax code, Congress does.

You and I don't set fiscal policy, Congress does.

You and I don't control monetary policy, the (note: privately-owned, unconstitutional and therefore unlawful) Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 Congressmen, one President, and nine Supreme Court justices! 545 human beings out of the 300 million are directly, legally, morally, and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

You and I don't propose a federal budget. The President does.

You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does.

You and I don't write the tax code, Congress does.

You and I don't set fiscal policy, Congress does.

You and I don't control monetary policy, the (Janet's note: privately-owned, unconstitutional and therefore unlawful) Federal Reserve Bank does.

I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a Senator, a Congressman, or a President to do one cotton-picking thing.

I don't care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it. No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator's responsibility to determine how he votes.

Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered, but private, central bank.

What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of a Speaker, who stood up and criticized the President for creating deficits. The President can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept it. The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating and approving appropriations and taxes. Who is the speaker of the House? She or He is the leader of the majority party. The speaker and fellow House members, not the President, can approve any budget they want. If the president vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto if they agree to.

It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 300 million can not replace 545 people who stand convicted -- by present facts -- of incompetence and irresponsibility. I can't think of a single domestic problem that is not traceable directly to those 545 people. When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

If the tax code is unfair, it's because they want it unfair.

If the budget is in the red, it's because they want it in the red.

If the Marines are in IRAQ, it's because they want them in IRAQ.

If they do not receive social security but are on an elite retirement plan not available to the people, it's because they want it that way. There are no insoluble government problems.

Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take this power. Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like 'the economy,''inflation,' or 'politics' that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Those 545 people, and no one else; and they alone, are responsible.

They, and they alone, have the power.

They, and they alone, should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses provided the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees.

We should vote all of them out of office and clean up their mess!

By the way Oklahoma I do not appreciate you taking away my vote. I should be able to vote third party, so for you this time I WILL NOT VOTE and good luck with Barack Obama. Your gonna need it.