Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Jeff Flake, Porkbuster Extraordinaire - Myth or Reality?

Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ6) is a study in contrasts -

He's a hardcore social conservative who's earned the emnity of the far-right wing of the Republican Party for his failure to immigrant-bash.

He's a hardcore social conservative who's earned some respect from Democrats for his lack of demagoguery and his professionalism (i.e. - solid constituent services.)

And he's a hardcore social conservative who's earned respect from across the political spectrum for his rep as a fiscally-responsible 'porkbuster,' earned for his crusade against 'wasteful' spending, especially earmarks.

Is that last truly deserved?

Let's take a quick look at what he considers to be 'wasteful (from amendments to bills that he has proposed just this year)...

...funds for Missions Hospitals in Asheville, North Carolina, for the Physician Order Entry Initiative.

...the military construction project at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, San Francisco, California.

...the Advanced Technology Program and the Technology and Innovation Program. [HR1868]

...a new Homeland Security grant program, "Over-The-Road Bus Security Assistance."

...use of funds for nongovernmental organizations.

...funds to be used for the Columbus Fire Fighters Union in Columbus, Ohio.

...funds to be used for the Philadelphia Art Museum Exterior Facade in Philadephia, PA.

...funds for the Grace Johnstown Area Regional Industries Incubator and Workforce Development program.

...the use of funds for the West Virginia University Research Corporation for renovations of a small business incubator.

... the use of funds for the Achieving a College Education Program at Maricopa Community College. [Note: this one really ticked off Congressman Ed Pastor from AZ4.]

...the use of funds to be used for the Exploratorium, San Francisco, California, for its Bay Area Science Teacher Recruitment, Retention, and Improvement Initiative.

...the use of funds for the Burpee Museum, Rockford, Illinois, for educational programming and exhibits.

...the use of funds for the South Carolina Aquarium, Charleston, South Carolina, for exhibits and curriculum.

...and so on.

He has proposed all sorts of amendments to address 'wasteful' spending, and I'm sure that at least a couple of the earmark/programs he has targeted *are* wasteful, but there is a curious pattern to the targets of his fiscal contempt -

Almost all are small community and/or regionally-based programs.

In fact, of the 53 Flake amendments from this session of Congress that I could find (search of The Congressional Record, House Rules Committee reports, and Tuesday's floor activity in the House), 37 targeted such programs. That's a 70% rate, and 70% is not a random coincidence, it's a definite pattern.

What you don't find among his proposals is anything that addresses truly significant waste, such as no-bid defense contracts or earmarks targeted at large campaign contributors or anything similar.

He seems to have a pronounced preference for protecting the taxpayers' treasury from the taxpayers themselves; corporations instead are given the keys to that very treasury.

Even his non-porkfighting amendments illustrate this tendency.

For example, two of his proposed amendments to H.R. 2316, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, addressed the 'scourge' of government entities lobbying for earmarks, including a prohibition on the use of federal funds to pay for lobbying for federal earmarks.

Something which sounds like a great idea in a press release, until you think about it - it reduces the competition for earmarks faced by corporate lobbyists.

He proposed no prohibitions for corporate lobbyists.

Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I have to admit that I'm one of the Democrats that has a bit of respect for him - he isn't a blowhard in the JD Hayworth mold, and he truly does work hard to represent his district.

Plus anyone who's ticked off Russell 'National Alliance' Pearce can't be *all* bad. :)

However, the posts that I wrote last week about Republican hypocrisy on fiscal responsibility started me to wonder about Flake's image in that area, and whether or not there was any substance behind the image.

There is *some* substance, but as with the other Republicans, it seems that the more an earmark helps communities or average citizens, the more he considers it to be 'wasteful.'

While I have heard some Democrats say that they would support him if Russell Pearce actually goes through with his threat to mount a primary challenge against Flake next year, I won't be one of them.

While he still has my respect for the professional and reasonable way that he conducts himself in office, his glaringly preferential treatment for corporations over real people precludes him from getting anything stronger than a little respect from me.


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