Back in March when President Obama signed the Omnibus bill he made a speech promising earmark reform:
…. Earmarks must have a legitimate and worthy public purpose. Earmarks that members do seek must be aired on those members’ websites in advance, so the public and the press can examine them and judge their merits for themselves. Each earmark must be open to scrutiny at public hearings, where members will have to justify their expense to the taxpayer.
Next, any earmark for a for-profit private company should be subject to the same competitive bidding requirements as other federal contracts. The awarding of earmarks to private companies is the single most corrupting element of this practice, as witnessed by some of the indictments and convictions that we’ve already seen…..When they’re private entities, then I believe they have to be evaluated with a higher level of scrutiny.
Furthermore, it should go without saying that an earmark must never be traded for political favors.
So Mr. President, how’s it going with that earmark reform? Um..not very good:
Earmark Requests Continue Despite Promises to Curb Process
WASHINGTON — Despite cries for reform, the earmark process is alive and well in Congress.
As lawmakers write the military budget for fiscal-year 2010, every member on the House defense-appropriations subcommittee has requested funds for contractors and other organizations with employees who have donated money to their campaigns.
The 18 members of the subcommittee are seeking a total of about $2 billion on behalf of such companies, universities and nonprofit groups, according to a review of campaign-finance data and nearly 400 earmark requests in the 2010 defense-spending bill by the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense.
Employees of those entities donated nearly $1 million to the 11 Democrats and seven Republicans since the beginning of 2007.
The defense-spending bill for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, which will likely total more than $500 billion, is slated for a final vote in the panel Thursday.
The requests come as the Democratic-led Congress has vowed to curb the earmark process, where members write into the budget a requirement that funds be spent in a specific way, rather than leaving those decisions to the discretion of government officials or competitive bidding. Scandals over earmarks for big donors paved the way for Republicans to lose control of Congress in 2006.
After that election, Democrats mandated that lawmakers list earmark requests on their Web sites for public review months before the spending bills are written and debated. Previously, earmarks were inserted into bills without much oversight.
It is not illegal for employees of companies to donate money to lawmakers who attempt to secure earmarks for the companies. There is no guarantee that any lawmaker’s request will end up in the final budget, which is subject to full votes in the House and Senate. The Justice Department has pursued corruption cases in the last decade based on the link between campaign donations and official acts by lawmakers, including requesting earmarks.
Ryan Alexander, the president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, said that spending taxpayer dollars “based on influence and access” always shortchanges the taxpayer. “The patterns are pretty clear,” Ms. Alexander said. “Thousands of dollars in contributions to the right lawmakers can turn into millions of earmarked federal dollars.”
Rep. Jim Moran (D., Va.) received $201,100 from entities requesting earmarks, the most of anyone on the subcommittee. Rep. John Murtha (D., Pa.), the chairman of the defense-appropriations subcommittee, got $199,050 in donations from employees and political action committees of companies requesting $61.4 million in targeted federal funding.
Mr. Moran represents Northern Virginia, an area heavily populated by defense-industry firms. Mr. Moran requested 45 earmarks totaling nearly $134 million in spending for projects such as redesigning Air Force radar technology to work in “extremely cold weather.” Some employees of 26 of those 45 companies have donated to Mr. Moran’s campaigns.
Asked to comment on the donations, Austin Durrer, a spokesman for Mr. Moran, said: “Is there a rule against that?”
The top Republican on the panel, Rep. Bill Young (R., Fla.), requested $72.5 million for entities whose employees donated $122,000.
A new defense-earmarks scandal is brewing around PMA Group, a Washington lobbying shop that was run by Mr. Murtha’s former staff member Paul Magliocchetti. PMA steered millions of dollars in campaign contributions to lawmakers who later requested earmarks for the firm’s clients. No one has been charged in the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe.
Messrs. Murtha and Young requested earmarks for PMA’s former clients. Both have previously denied any wrongdoing.
The precise amount of member-directed spending in this bill is not known because two members — Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D., Mich.) and Rep. Jack Kingston (R., Ga.) — didn’t release what they will request to be included in the bill, but rather released what was requested of them. When asked by The Wall Street Journal to release specific requests, both members declined.
According to Ms. Kilpatrick’s disclosures, she has received requests for $856 million from General Dynamics Corp. General Dynamics, PMA’s former client, gave Ms. Kilpatrick’s campaign $12,000 through its political action committee.
Ms. Kilpatrick said that her work in Congress and her donations “have nothing to do with one another.”
Kendell Pease, a vice president at General Dynamics, said his company’s political action committee gives its campaign contributions to “people who support national security.”
Mr. Murtha got contributions from employees of 15 of the 20 entities for which he sought funding. A spokesman for Mr. Murtha declined to comment.
Mr. Young’s earmark requests include $5 million for DRS Technologies Inc., whose employees and PAC donated $34,850 to his campaign in 2008 alone. DRS was formerly represented by PMA. DRS and Mr. Young did not return calls for comment.
Most lawmakers say the donations are not related to the earmark requests. Sam Sackett, a spokesman for Rep. Todd Tiahrt (D., Kan.), said it “comes as no surprise” that the employees of Hawker Beechcraft Corp. would donate $23,100 to the congressman’s re-election efforts. He requested $8 million in funding for Hawker Beechcraft.
Rep. Norman Dicks received a total of $48,300 from employees and political-action committees of 12 companies in line to get earmarks. George Behan, a spokesman for Mr. Dicks, said these companies’ support is “nothing new” as Mr. Dicks represents Kitsap County, a defense-industry stronghold.