Archive for June, 2007

McCain Lobbies for Office

Posted in 2008 Election on June 26th, 2007

Senator McCain Presidential hopeful Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who made his name in US politics by attacking special interests, has more lobbyists working on his campaign staff or as advisers than any of his competitors in the 2008 presidential race.

Despite his vocal stance denouncing special interest groups’ impact on US politics, Sen. McCain seems to have compunctions about filling his campaign staff with exactly the sort of people he makes a show of fighting against.

Too often the special interest lobbyists with the fattest wallets and best access carry the day when issues of public policy are being decided

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)

McCain claims that he has “has fought the ‘revolving door’ by which lawmakers and other influential officials leave their posts and become lobbyists for the special interests they have aided.” Yet McCain has at least two top advisers who exactly fit this description:

  • Campaign Co-Chair ex-Texas Representative Tom Loeffler
  • Honorary Chairman ex-Washington Sen. Slade Gorton

Both Loffler and Gordon are now very influential lobbyists, representing: PhRMA, Southwest Airlines, Toyota, Martin Marietta, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., Weyerhaeuser, and Fidelity National Financial among others. There are a total of 11 current or former lobbyists working for or advising McCain. This is at least double the number the number of lobbyists on the campaign payroll of any other candidate; even Hillary Clinton, who among Democrats has made the most use of special interest groups, doesnt come close to McCains total.

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Hillary’s Earmarks

Posted in 2008 Election on June 16th, 2007

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) Presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) has secured more earmarks in the fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill than any other Democrat except for Chairman of the Armed Services Committee Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.). The fiscal year (FY) Defense Authorization Bill has $5.4 billion in earmarks, 26 of which were requested by Clinton, and which add up to a total of $148.4 million in federal spending. Clinton had previously secured 360 earmarks worth a combined $2.2 billion from 2002 to 2006 in all spending and authorization bills.

Some of Senator Clinton’s beneficiaries / contributers:

  • Northrop Grumman – $6 million for the AN/SPQ-9B radar;
  • Telephonics, – $5 million for a standardized aircraft wireless intercom system for the National Guard Black Hawk helicopter fleet;
  • Plug Power Inc. – $3 million for fuel cell power technology;
  • Alliant Tech Systems (ATK), – $3.5 million for the X-51 B robust scramjet research.

All of the above are New York based corporations with the exception of ATK which is based in Utah, though the division of ATK that would be doing the work is based in Ronkonkoma, N.Y.

To be fair, these may all be worthwhile projects. They were not, however requested by the Pentagon or the Administration. They were added to be Defense Authorization Bill by Clinton without the provision for debate or review. The above listed earmarks total $17.5 million. The author has no idea what the remaining $130.9 million worth of earmarks Clinton added are slated for. Given that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)’s lone contribution the earmarks on the bill was for a Department of Education program for children with severe disabilities, the author is afraid to speculate.

Addendum: For a follow-up go here.

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Defense Earmarks

Posted in Politics on June 16th, 2007

What is Happening:
Earmarks are appropriations inserted into legislation by individual members of Congress while the bill for that legislation was in subcommittee, committee, or conference committee. They are not subject to debate, nor due they undergo any independent review. The Department of Defense budget is a favorite vehicle for earmarks because of its size; the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill is the single largest spending measure that Congress passes each year.

According to the Congressional Research Service, Memorandum, Earmarks in FY2006 Appropriations Act, March 6, 2006, p. 11 between 1994 and 2006 the number of earmarks attached to the defense budget increased from 587 to 2,847. Their cost increased from $4.2 billion to $9.4 billion. That is a 223.08% increase over the course of 12 years! Accurate figures for the latest round of appropriations is not available but Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK)– a vocal opponent of earmarking is quoted as saying “the appetite is undiminished.”

The Pentagon does not request these appropriations; the appropriations are inserted into the DoD budget by individual members of congress often without any regard at all as to whether or not the appropriations have anything to do with Defense. The defense appropriations panels typically have to offset the costs of these earmarks with cuts to their original budget request; they generally justify these cuts by pointing to updated economic assumptions or analyses of Pentagon cost estimates by the Government Accountability Office (GAO)or other agencies. When queried on this practice the DoD is somewhere between reticent and deferential.

Were obviously not going to pick a fight with Congress.

The process is what it is.

 

— DoD Spokesperson

What it’s Costing the US:
What are these earmarks added to the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill costing the United states? The earmarking of defense dollars dilutes the effectiveness and efficiency of defense spending. Instead of funding programs based on their necessity for national security, many legislators are focused on protecting their local constituents’ military industrial base. Earmarking also, because it is subject to neither debate nor review reduces transparency in the appropriations process which makes sound economic policy as well a public scrutiny near impossible.

[Earmarks have]gotten completely out of hand. This is the time that we need to put the Army in full readiness, and we cannot even afford to do that.

 

— John Shalikashvili
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

In fiscal year 2005 legislators heavily prioritized local concerns defense spending bill, resulting in a $2.8 billion cut in funds for operations and maintenance and other readiness accounts that contribute to the war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military’s ability to fight effectively is largely dependent on adequate funding in these accounts. In all, Congress cut $8.2 billion out of the entire bill to help make room for projects requested by individual lawmakers.

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