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[Washington Babylon]

Democrats Back at the Trough



I regularly receive press releases from one of the two major political parties lambasting the other, and I generally don’t pay them much mind. But the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) sent out a release on August 4 that contained some juicy tidbits about the performance of the current Democratic Congress.

For example, it pointed to the Democrats’ appointment of Congressman Alan Mollohan to chair the subcommittee that oversees the FBI budget. That’s an interesting choice given that Mollohan is currently under FBI investigation for seeking earmarks that benefited his friends and supporters. And how about the inspired decision to appoint “Dollar Bill” Jefferson to a seat on the Homeland Security Committee? Maybe that should have waited until Jefferson finds a better excuse for keeping $90,000 in his freezer, as discovered during an FBI raid on his home.

The press release also cited an outburst of Democratic porkbarrel spending. The legendary Congressman John Murtha, chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee on defense, recently won a controversial $23 million grant for the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) in his home district. So far, his fellow Democrats have not acted to strip that money from the spending bill despite the stink caused by the grant; nor have they reprimanded Murtha for allegedly threatening to cut projects in the district of Republican Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan after the latter tried to axe the NDIC funding.

Incidentally, the New York Times recently ran an article reporting that this year Murtha “has obtained $163 million in pet projects—more than anyone else in Congress and more than his own previous record of about $100 million.” The story said that House lawmakers have “put together spending bills that include almost 6,500 earmarks for almost $11 billion in local projects,” including $63 million worth of projects in or near the district of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in San Francisco. On a smaller scale, the House supported a $2 million earmark to buy a building for Congressman Charlie Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, to have a “well-furnished office,” a “Rangel Library,” and personnel to organize his “photographs and memorabilia.”

Given the large number of Republican lawmakers under federal investigation–with the illustrious Senator Ted Stevens being only the latest example–it’s impossible to take seriously the GOP’s attempt to seize the mantle of morality. (A representative pious quote from NRCC Communications Director Jessica Boulanger: “It’s baffling that the Democrats would so willingly . . . violate the trust of the American taxpayer. After a shameful final sprint of broken rules and broken promises, the House will adjourn for the summer on a low note.”) And despite the efforts of Murtha and other kindred spirits, the Democrats aren’t even close to racking up the record levels of pork approved by the GOP-led Congress in recent years. Still, they’re working on it, and the party’s record to date makes it easy for Boulanger to mock the Democratic promise to run the “most honest, most open, and most ethical Congress in history.”

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