The Dems’ Uninspiring Record on Earmarks

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To continue our trend of Democrats playing the Washington game instead of standing for what’s right:

Even as House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer has joined in steps to clean up pork-barrel spending, the Maryland congressman has tucked $96 million worth of pet projects into next year’s federal budget, including $450,000 for a campaign donor’s foundation.

Hoyer (D) is one of the top 10 earmarkers in the House for 2008, based on budget requests in bills so far, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, an independent watchdog group.

The Post article from which this comes does not identify the other nine lawmakers in the top 10, and the Taxpayers for Common Sense website doesn’t have the list either. So it could be all Republicans, who knows? But I’m guessing it isn’t.

Hoyer is a good example of how there isn’t a consensus on earmarks among Democrats. When they took power in 2006, they weren’t all gripped by a zeal to cleanse Washington of money’s corrupting power.

Hoyer defends his earmarks, saying they fund such worthy causes as cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and supporting local military bases. For 2008, he has requested millions of dollars to equip police in his district, help schools and improve roads and the Southern Maryland bus network… “We made very substantial progress in making sure that earmarks, which I support, are transparent,” Hoyer said in an interview.

That’s what Hoyer supports—incremental change. Don’t eliminate earmarks, just shine a little light on them. Oh, and reduce their numbers somewhat.

Republicans had come under fire as earmarks tripled during their 12 years of congressional control, to nearly 13,000 in 2006. Some projects, such as a $223 million bridge to a sparsely populated Alaskan island — dubbed a “bridge to nowhere” — stirred public ridicule.

Since assuming control of Congress, Democrats have taken some important steps to clean up the practice, watchdog groups say. Lawmakers are now required to disclose their earmarks. And House and Senate leaders have agreed to cut earmark spending by 40 percent in the 2008 budget bills.

Better than the last guy, but still not good enough.

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And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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