Monday, July 27, 2009

Flake's jihad against earmarks: The reality is not quite as pure as the image

Even though I've criticized AZ Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ6) in the past - and will continue to do so in the future - I actually have a great deal of respect for him.

While I rarely agree with him on most issues (and would never vote for him if I lived in his district), he is nothing if not consistent.

For instance, he has been calling for an House Ethics Committee investigation into the relationship between the PMA Group lobbying firm and Demcratic appropriators for months now. At one point, after his fifth or sixth "privileged resolution" was introduced in the House, I wondered where his righteous indignation and high ethical standards were during the Tom Delay mess a few years ago.

Turns out that he was one of the Republicans pressuring then-Majority Leader Tom Delay to step down.

So he gets some serious points for not being a hypocrite on ethics.

Unfortunately, he does have a record on earmarks of being, if not outright hypocritical (he doesn't seek earmarks for his own district), well, it *is* a little "gray."

He has proposed a number of anti-earmark amendments to bills this year, and the vast majority of them opposed earmarks in other states. And the ones that don't target other states' earmarks? They're general amendments.

He almost never targets AZ.

Hey, as someone who lives here, I suppose I should be a little grateful at his mercy, but as much as I love Arizona, even I don't think that all federally-funded projects here are good, while all such projects in other states are bad.

Yet Jeff Flake seems to think that the only improper expenditures of federal money occur in other states.

To whit, from the various authorization and appropriations bills (and the stimulus bill) that Congress has considered this year (note: pages linked to the word "amendments" are the Rules Committee pages listing all amendments proposed for a particular bill, not just Flake's) -

- For H.R. 3288, the Transportation and HUD appropriations act, Flake proposed 12 amendments.

He attacked projects in North Dakota, Texas, Ohio (twice), Pennsylvania (twice), New York (three times!), West Virginia, Wisconsin, and New Mexico. The closest he came to targeting an AZ earmark was one of the Pennsylvania projects he attacked. It was in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.

- For H.R. 3170, the Financial Services and General Government appropriations act, Flake proposed 11 amendments.

He went after projects in Georgia, Arkansas, Idaho, Minnesota, Maryland, Florida, California (twice), Pennsylvania (twice) and South Carolina.

- For Energy and Water Appropriations, he proposed 12 amendments.

He went after projects in Missouri, California (twice), Georgia, Arkansas, New York, Vermont, Nevada, District of Columbia, Washington, Massachusetts, and Minnesota.

- For H.R. 3082, Veterans Affairs and Military Construction appropriations, Flake proposed one amendment. This one would have prohibited "all of the member-requested earmarks for military construction projects." That amendment would have eliminated over 100 projects, one of which was in AZ.

- For H.R. 3081, State Department and foreign operations appropriations, Flake proposed one amendment, eliminating funding for "the one-time special educational, professional, and cultural exchange grants program."

- For H.R. 2997, Agriculture, Rural Development and FDA appropriations, Flake proposed 12 amendment, some of which were of the "MIRV" variety, attacking multiple states in one strike.

He went after projects in Pennsylvania, Idaho (twice), Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oregon (twice), Tennessee, West Virginia, Iowa (twice), Georgia, Washington (twice), Minnesota, Ohio, Maryland, Texas, Illinois, and Maryland,

- For H.R. 2996, Interior, Environment and related appropriations, Flake proposed 10 amendments.

He went after projects in Indiana, Minnesota (twice), New York, Alabama (twice), Tennessee, Connecticut, Georgia, and Wisconsin.

- For H.R. 2647, the FY2010 National Defense Authorization Act, Flake proposed two amendments. The first would have "prohibit the Defense Secretary from expending money for earmarks if (1) the recipient (or any employee, director, or PAC) contributed to a Member of Congress who sponsored the earmark or (2) any registered lobbyist (or its PAC) whose client is the recipient of the earmark contributed to the Member of Congress who sponsored the earmark" and the second would have required "the Defense Secretary to report to Congress on the competitive processes used to award earmarks listed in the joint explanatory statement for the FY2008 defense appropriations bill. If competitive processes were not employed in making such awards, the decision-making process and justifications as to why should be cited in the report."

- For H.R. 2892, Homeland Security appropriations, Flake proposed 11 amendments.

In those, he went after projects in Arizona (whoooo hoooo! Finally!!), Kentucky, New York (twice), North Carolina, Texas, California (FOUR times!), and one amendment that would have struck "all the earmarks for emergency operations centers from FEMA's State and Local Programs account."

Note: Why do I think that it may not be the brightest idea for a Republican to go after FEMA? Maybe he can campaign on this one as his "Katrina Memorial" amendment.

- For H.R. 2918, Legislative Appropriations, Flake proposed one amendment. That one would have prohibited "funds from being used to implement the House Ethics Manual provision on page 239 in the Certification of No Financial Interest in Fiscal Legislation section of Chapter Five that states "A contribution to a Member's principal campaign committee or leadership PAC generally would not constitute the type of 'financial interest' referred to in the rule." "

- For H.R. 2200, the Transportation Security Administration Authorization Act, Flake proposed one amendment. That one would have prevented "earmarking in a new grant program established in the bill, and would clarify that Congress presumes that grants awarded through that program will be awarded on a competitive basis, and if they are not, require the Assistant Secretary to submit a report to Congress explaining the reason."

- For H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Flake proposed seven amendments. He didn't attack specific states. Instead he went after AmeriCorps, the National Endowment for the Arts, Amtrak, the National Mall Revitalization Fund, "any duck pond, museum, skate park, equestrian center, dog park, ski hill, historic home, ice rink, splash playground, or speaker system", and energy efficient federal buildings.

So in 81 amendments that Jeff Flake has proposed to authorization and approps bills (and ARRA), Flake has gone after one AZ earmark directly (regarding solar power of all things. I mean, it's totally foolish to invest money on solar power projects in Arizona, right? BTW - that's sarcasm folks :) ) and one, a fire station, that was included on a long hit list of military construction projects.

I'm sure that at least a few of the earmarks that he targeted are ones that most reasonable people would consider to be wasteful, However, his nearly-unswerving aim at targets outside of AZ, a state that owes a huge amount of credit for its growth to federal infrastructure spending, gives lie to the purity of his motives.

He may be touted as a "limited government spending", Libertarian-leaning Republican, but it seems that he only wants to limit government spending in other parts of the country.

Perhaps so that more money is available for Arizona. Not that he'll ask for any. He leaves that sort of petty "looking out for his state and district" stuff to mere mortals.

Like Ann Kirkpatrick, Harry Mitchell, Gabrielle Giffords, Ed Pastor, and Raul Grijalva, the Democratic members of AZ's Congressional delegation.

No comments: