Obama Lies About EarmarksMarch 12th, 2009 by nick
Here is my definition of earmarks:
Earmarks are sometimes payoffs to campaign contributors, and sometimes possibly worthy projects for a Congressperson’s home district, that are inserted into appropriation legislation, without debate or oversight, the number and amounts of which are based on a Congressperson’s seniority and committee assignments.
Here is a definition of earmarks from the Office of Management and Budget:
- Earmarks vs. Unrequested Funding. At the broadest level, unrequested funding is any additional funding provided by the Congress — in either bill or report language — for activities/projects/programs not requested by the Administration. Earmarks are a subset of unrequested funding. The distinction between earmarks and unrequested funding is programmatic control or lack thereof of in the allocation process.
- Earmarks and Programmatic “Control.” If the congressional direction accompanying a project/program/funding in an appropriations bill or report or other communication purports to affect the ability of the Administration to control critical aspects of the awards process for the project/program/funding, this IS an earmark. Note: The definition of “control critical aspects” includes specification of the location or recipient or otherwise circumventing the merit-based or competitive allocation process and may be program specific. However, if the Congress adds funding and the Administration retains control over the awards process for the project/program/funding, it is NOT an earmark; it is unrequested funding.
- Earmarks Include:
- Add-ons. If the Administration asks for $100 million for formula grants, for example, and Congress provides $110 million and places restrictions (such as site-specific locations) on the additional $10 million, the additional $10 million is counted as an earmark.
- Carve-outs. If the Administration asks for $100 million and Congress provides $100 million but places restrictions on some portion of the funding, the restricted portion is counted as an earmark.
- Funding provisions that do not name grantee, but are so specific that only one grantee can qualify for funding.
OMB has used this definition to gather data on earmarks internally. This definition is similar to the definition that the Congress recently developed for disclosing earmarks in spending legislation (H. Res. 6 and the Senate-passed version of S. 1).
Here are some quotes from President Obama on the subject of earmarks, in chronological order:
Before becoming President of the United States:
“We need earmark reform, and when I’m President, I will go line by line to make sure that we are not spending money unwisely.”
“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 we have seen,”
“Private companies differ from the public entities that Americans rely on every day – schools, police stations, fire departments – and if they are seeking taxpayer dollars, then they should be evaluated with a higher level of scrutiny.”
After becoming President of the United States:
“I recognize that Congress has the power of the purse, and as a former Senator, I believe that individual members of Congress understand their districts best. They should have the ability to respond to the needs of their communities. But leadership requires setting an example, and the magnitude of the economic crisis we face requires responsibility on all our parts.”
“Done right, earmarks have given legislators the opportunity to direct federal money to worthy projects that benefit people in their districts. And that’s why I’ve opposed their outright elimination.”
And then he signed the budget bill for 2009 which contains between 8,000 and 9,000 earmarks, by anyone’s definition.
Here is my interpretation of President Obama’s recent pronouncements on earmarks:
Hey, bribery isn’t a big deal! It’s only 1 or 2% of the budget, fer Christ’s sake!
Besides, sometimes politicians are bribed to do good things!