Monday, January 16, 2006

Time to upturn the pigtrough

I don't frequently agree, as one might guess, with conservative pundit George Will.

Mr. Will however, is at least the sort of conservative who has, to date, largely shunned the BushCorp™, power for power's sake kool-aid. And like many an honest (or at least sincere) conservative, he seems truly disheartened by the level of corruption in the Republican party.

Now one may ask why, just now, is this long time DC insider so interested in cleaning up congress. Couldn't be a belated effort to save the GOP's elephantine ass on the Abramoff corruption scandal or anything? Nah.

But be that as it may, Mr. Will has recently shown that even political hacks can come to wisdom.

And on what subject does your CaliBlogger agree with the wiley Mr. Will?


As I wrote last week:

As has been shown over and over again, efforts to reduce the flow of money, either directly on indirectly into politicians' pockets have proven futile. If corporations and wealthy individuals have both money to spend and an expectation it'll buy them a favor, they'll find a way. What campaign finance laws and such really do is serve as full employment insurance for millions of very clever lawyers looking for the (inevitable it seems) loophole.

No, rather than throw down a rather porous gauntlet for interest groups and their battalions of lawyers, better to enforce a very simple rule for a few hundred congresscritters: No more earmarks.

If lobbyists can no longer count on getting a specific bit of legislation into the books simply by getting Congressman X seats for the Superbowl, they'll be much less inclined to even try. These are businessmen after all, and like any good businessman, a lobbyist will want to get the most bang for the buck. So if no bang is there to be had, neither will be the bucks.

No doubt having read an advanced copy of my LTE to the Pasadena Star-News (read it here), Mr. Will, in an effort, no doubt to avoid getting "scooped" on the idea, rushed into yesterday's Washington Post:
Forbid appropriations to private entities. Government money should flow directly to government agencies -- federal, state or local. And those agencies should be required to formally testify that local projects receiving national funding serve essential national needs. Appropriations that are, in effect, cash flows from individual representatives to private entities are invitations to corruption. Federal money directed to private entities was what ex-representative Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) was bribed to deliver.

So, end "earmarks." They write into law a representative's or senator's edict that a particular sum be spent on a particular project in his or her state or district.

And while such suggestions may be mere CYA attempts by conservatives in the face of the GOP's Abramoff corruption scandal, still, I believe suggestions like those made by Arizona Republican, Rep. Jeff Flake have merit:
Flake proposes legislation that would prohibit federal agencies from funding any earmark not contained in a bill's actual legislative language. And the bill would allow a point of order to prevent the waiving of House rules against including non-germane spending -- earmarks not included in either House or Senate spending bills -- in conference reports.

I strongly doubt that the GOP as a whole would even consider endangering the support they receive from their corporate masters, support based on the many little billion dollar favors a Congressman can give.

Which presents an opportunity for Democrats to stand up for real reform, and stand up against earmarks.

And I would certainly support any candidate who can honestly answer yes to the following question: Do you support the complete elimination of Congressional earmarks?

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