Earmarks, Schmearmarks

This morning, I heard the toe sucker, Dick Morris, deplore the presence of a paltry $8 billion worth of earmarks in the 1900-page, $1.3 trillion omnibus federal budget bill coming to the floor of the Senate this week. 

Members of both parties have plenty of earmarks in the bill, but it is particularly hypocritical for Republicans to use the issue as a wedge during last month’s campaign and then rush to get earmarks in the budget before all tea party hell breaks loose next month in the House.  

But such hypocrisy is not unusual on the right.  Just consider Dick Morris’ protest about earmarks this morning on the Republican “News” Channel.  He condemned the inclusion of earmarks in the budget bill because, he says, they represent corruption in the process.  He calls the game “legalized bribery,” and he claims there is a correlation between the earmarks and donations to political campaigns.  And in that he’s not far from wrong.    

It works this way: Say a university is given a $500,000 grant—via an earmark inserted by Senator X—to research just why it is that some men are attracted to toe sucking.  The university’s lobbyist then turns around and donates $50,000 to Senator X’s campaign.  Voilà. 

Dick the phalangephile has a point, of course.  It is beyond unseemly what happens not only at the federal level, but at the state level, including right here in Missouri.  Politicians are on the take all over the place, because they need money to survive the next election.

And that’s where the hypocrisy on the right comes in.  People like Dick Morris—a political consultant, as well as a foxy regular on the Republican “News” “Channel—rage against a machine that they refuse to reform. 

The right-wing furiously opposes any meaningful change in the system, unless the change makes it worse—see the Citizens United decision.* If we revamped the campaign finance system by providing public money, we would save a lot of dough in the long run.  Senator X would be less tempted to insert the toe sucker research earmark in an appropriations bill just to get fifty grand from a university, although that would mean we may never know what makes Dick tick.

As for Morris, Media Matters exposes his and Fox’s part in the game, and here is just a sample:

In 2008, Morris repeatedly touted the National Republican Trust PAC’s website, GOPTrust.com, and asked viewers to “give funds to GOPTrust.com.” Between October 27, 2008, and November 17, 2008, Morris mentioned GOPTrust.com during at least 13 Fox News appearances without disclosing that the organization paid $24,000 to Morris’ consulting firm Triangulation Strategies from the beginning of October 2008 to November 24, 2008.


Morris has served as the chief strategist and ad crafter for the conservative group League of American Voters (LAV), which opposed the Democrats’ health care reform proposals. On Fox News, Morris implored viewers to donate for ads opposing health care reform at least 10 times just in February and March, often directing viewers to his website, which contained contribution links for the LAV. Morris also regularly solicited funds on Fox for 2009 LAV ad campaigns.

Republicans get away with this blatant hypocrisy all the time on Fox, of course.  No matter the issue, whether it’s earmarks in particular or government spending in general, they get credit for publicly agitating against obvious deficiencies in the system, while secretly undermining those who are trying to fix them. 


* In an article on Clearly New Mexico, we find out that the toe sucker was the front man in a “campaign phone blitz” in that state, which aimed to “take back America” from those noted socialists, “Reid, Pelosi and Obama.”  The message began:

“Please stay on the line for an important message from Dick Morris of Citizens United.”


  1. ansonburlingame

     /  December 15, 2010

    OMG, again, and NOT “goodness” this time around,

    Who in the hell decided no earmarks as a matter of policy just a month ago for the future congress. Republicans. What did Dems decide. Keep on earmarking for sure.

    This $1.1 Trillion “Omnibus” spending bill is a travesty and should go down in flames. If that shuts down the damn government, do it. Stop sending out all those checks and see what happens.

    The Dems with overwhelming majorities dilly dallied around all year and never even passed a GD BUDGET. Why? Did the Republicans say “NO” to a proposed budget so the Dems refused to use their majority to get one (just like they passed Obamacare)? We could have had a budget AND a tax hike on the rich if Dems had LEAD rather than dilly dally around and worry “what will people think” if we stick by our guns.

    YOU HAD ALL THE POWER IN THE WORLD to pass whatever you wanted. BUT YOU FAILED TO DO SO. And NOW you take on Dick Morris for essentially telling you that, for Christ’s sake.

    YOU and your crowd had all the power and time you needed to advance your agenda but did not in most cases. You spent all your time and energy on Obamacare instead. Why? Was it pure politics and not governing as your party saw best for the country?

    Now your party was soundly repudiated by voters in Nov. Imagine the results had your real agenda been rammed through? Do you really think voters would have approved and kept Dem majorities in place to keep on ramming stuff through?

    My guess is that not only would the Nov results been much worse for you but we would also be hearing cries for impeachment, etc of selected “leaders”.

    Lead, follow or get out of the way as the saying goes. You are now moaning because your own leaders “got out of the way” of the coming electoral upheaval. And in “getting out of the way” by not holding needed votes for budgets, taxes, etc, it did you little good, right? You still got your asses handed to you by voters all over the country except that “crazy” state of CA.



    • Anson,

      I don’t suppose you see the contradictions in your claims here. You said,

      YOU and your crowd had all the power and time you needed to advance your agenda but did not in most cases.

      Now, one moment you condemn Obama and the Democrats for their far-left accomplishments, which many on your side say is destroying the country. Now, you tell me that my “crowd” didn’t accomplish much at all. Which is it?

      And by the way, we never had “all the power and time.” From November 5, 2008, to the present, the Republican strategy has been to misuse the filibuster in the Senate to put a big fat check on any power the Democrats had.

      Dems made a big (but understandable) mistake in 2008 by not anticipating this Republican play. They should have opened the 2009 session with a filibuster reform rule, which would have given them the power to shut down the Republican strategy.

      In any case, as far as the voters, as I have argued elsewhere, if you think that the election was about the Democratic spending agenda, you are smoking Kentucky crack. It was, for most voters who abandoned the Democrats, about the lackluster economy. I don’t know why that isn’t clear by now. Just look at the public reaction to nearly another trillion dollars added to the deficit: a large majority are in favor of it!




  2. ansonburlingame

     /  December 15, 2010

    AND of course, in your view, the economy is LACLUSTER because we haven’t spent enough, right?

    Well I think or believe or have the opinion that we have spent far too much by government for far too long and the chickens are coming home to roost.

    AND what money the government has spent, has been spent unwisely in many many cases, particularly over the last two years.

    Finally, so the reason we don’t have a budget and did not pass an increase in taxes on the rich sometime in the last two years is because of the threat of a Republican veto, right?

    Before Brown you had a 59, repeat 59 vote majority and after his election one of 58. Are you telling me your arugments were unable to sway even one or two Republicans?

    Or was it instead that you weren’t even sure your had your own majority locked up nice and tight just like the Republicans.


    Holy Cow.



    • Anson,

      After all the Republican spending during the eight years of Bushanomics, including surplus-killing tax cuts and wars and a new entitlement program, you have the gonads to label Obama’s spending as particularly unwise spending?

      Exactly what do you mean by that? Obama’s spending has essentially consisted of the stimulus package and some other odds and ends, designed to help the victims of Republican governance. Which part of the stimulus package do you consider unwise? The 36% of it that went to tax cuts? On that, I might agree with you. And I might agree that the money –and much more of it—should have been mostly directed toward infrastructure projects.

      As for the Republican strategy of obstruction, you know better than what you write. The Democrats had only 58 members for a short time. Most of the time they moved from 56 to 57 and back. Right now they have 56. And you know good and well that the Republicans were a solid block, when it came to the big issues. They would not be moved, even the so-called moderates who pretended they could. The health care law was buggered up because of a misguided appeal to those phony moderates. So was that stimulus package. So was finance reform.

      And as for the House of Representatives, THAT BODY did pass a tax bill that restored the tax rates on the wealthiest Americans. And the Senate managed to get 53 votes, which, as Claire McCaskill said, is a landslide here in Missouri. But not in the Republican-filibuster-controlled Senate.

      Holy Shit.



  3. Jane Reaction

     /  December 15, 2010

    The reality is that nearly half of the $1.3 trillion budget is for the War and Homeland departments and their supply trains of soldiers, spies, dirty tricks teams, weapons developers and bribery money. Anson Burlingame is fired up about $8 billion? That is 6/10ths of one percent.

    Apparently we should tax the shit out of retired U-boat commanders until they learn to do something besides think and write in circles.


  4. ansonburlingame

     /  December 15, 2010


    See the doughnut rolling down the hill. Now do you know what to do with it or should I tell you. Now THERE is a circle I can suggest you consider.


    How about a peak deficit of $500 Billion in one out of eight years. Compare that to continuous deficits almost THREE times that size for the last two years and TWICE THAT SIZE for the next 8 or so projected years.

    You may want to defend the size of the Obama deficit, lame as those defenses appear to me. But there is NO WAY you can say Bush ever approached such thresholds of spending.

    But of course BUSH after moving back to Texas, MADE HIM DO IT, right?



    • Anson,

      You couldn’t be more wrong about Bush and his responsibility for the Obama deficits. Part of Obama’s deficit spending is directly related to the Bush tax cuts, which starved the treasury for ten years, Iraq war spending, Medicare Part D and interest on the debt he ran up. I have previously posted a chart that shows Bush’s share of the deficit, and it is substantial. So, you can give that one up. We are still living with the consequences of Bush policies in more ways that a few.

      Second, you have failed to address the Republican hypocrisy on the earmark issue, which was the part of this post. Try reading this fascinating article:

      Those Pesky GOP Earmarks

      11:15 am December 15, 2010, by Jamie Dupree

      While Republicans denounced the 1,924 page Omnibus budget bill that was unveiled by Senate Democrats yesterday, their arguments against earmarks ran into some trouble during a news conference today.

      Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) joined Sen. John Thune (R-SD) in the Senate Radio-TV Gallery in what was billed as a news conference to blast the move by Democrats to bring up this $1.1 trillion Omnibus in the waning days of this session of Congress.

      “There is no reason other than political expediency to try to jam this bill through,” said Cornyn, accusing top Democrats of ignoring the message sent by voters in November, that they wanted less spending, not a bill filled with home-state budget earmarks.

      But if advisers to the Senators thought the opening statements of Cornyn and Thune would set the theme for this news conference, they were wrong, because the fine print of the Omnibus showed many Republican Senators at the pork barrel trough as well.

      My review found 45 earmarks for Cornyn and another 26 for Thune. Those examples didn’t get ignored by reporters.

      “The bill contains many earmarks that you requested,” said one reporter, starting the Q&A.

      “Pardon me?” said Cornyn.

      “I intend to vote against those earmarks because the American people sent a message on November 2nd,” said the Texas Republican.

      “Senator Thune, I was just looking at the list of earmark requests that you requested this year and it adds up to over a hundred million dollars,” said another reporter, asking the South Dakota Republican – who has been talked about as a Presidential hopeful – if he would strike those earmarks.

      “I support those projects, but I don’t support this bill,” Thune answered.

      Time for another question.

      “Going through this bill, there is earmark after earmark from the both of you, millions of dollars in earmarks,” asked another scribe with a jab.

      “Why do you have any credibility on this?”

      “Because we’re going to vote against the bill,” answered Cornyn.

      “It appears like you’re saying one thing and doing another,” another reporter pressed.

      “Not at all,” said Cornyn, as Thune also stepped in to defend their stance on the Omnibus.

      “We’ve got to leave it there – we’ve got to get going,” a GOP aide said, trying to end the press conference and quickly get the Senators out the door.

      “Were you wrong when you put these earmarks in?” asked one reporter, ignoring the staffer.

      “You’re missing the story if you think it’s just about earmarks,” Cornyn protested, trying to turn the focus back to Democratic leaders bringing this huge bill to the floor with little time for review.

      “Thank you guys. Thank you very much,” the same staffer quickly interjected as Cornyn finished his answer, trying again to end the news conference.

      “Is that an acknowledgement that it was wrong to put the earmarks in in the first place?” a reporter asked.

      “You’ve asked the question about five times and I’ve tried to answer it to the best of my ability,” said a somewhat irked Cornyn, who then zipped out the door.

      How’s that for responsible behavior?



  5. ansonburlingame

     /  December 16, 2010

    Cone on,

    You know as well as I do that the earmarks from both sides were put in the “Omnibus” bill long before the Nov election by both sides operating in a business as usual mode.

    Then six people, 3 Dems and 3 Reps collected bits and pieces of that “old stuff” and JAMMED it into the next 2000 page monster. The “monster” is an accumulation of bits and pieces of “crap” put together at the last minute to stick “one more blow” before the new Congress takes seats.

    But I do agree that you express disapointment with YOUR leaders from time to time. But just look at the theme of almost each one of your blogs. It is all about how dumb, dishonest, double dealing, etc the Rep might be. Sort of a slanted perspective I suspect.

    As for the GC. So you seem to think Biden and McConnel are the only ones to blame, right. Those two MADE Pelosi and Obama do a terrible thing, right?

    OK, you fire Biden, I’ll fire McConnel and we can then go back to the drawing board to renegotiate. Problem is the issue has been looming for years now and we don’t have time to renegotiate. Some 80 or so Senators seem to think that be the case.

    And I’ll bet by the weekend, despite all the crap we are hearing, Obama will sign the damn bill, whether we like it or not.

    Welcome back to Washington.



    • Anson,

      Nice how you manage to label Republican hypocrisy as “business as usual.”

      In any case, I agree with you that in the end the bill, likely in the form it is in today, will become law. As I have said, I understand why Obama has done this deal—and I hold him responsible for it, not Joe Biden—but I had profound disagreements with both the way it was negotiated and Mr. Obama’s attitude toward some liberals on his side who dared question the wisdom of it. He has some fence-mending to do in that regard.

      Besides the tax cuts for the rich in the bill, I don’t like the cuts in the payroll tax, which in my opinion presents a future battle with Republicans over Social Security stability. Mr. Obama will likely embrace some aspects of the deficit commission’s proposals, including reformation of the tax code, as well as their recommendations on Social Security. I just don’t understand tinkering with the funding of the program and then asking future recipients to pay the price for present gains in economic activity. Just doesn’t make sense to me.

      Plus, I believe Mr. Obama, after being forced to embrace supply-side thinking and then voluntarily and happily defending it before the nation, will have a hard time selling any campaign-season criticism of those same policies when they expire again right before the next election.

      But that’s his problem, I suppose, not mine.



  6. ansonburlingame

     /  December 17, 2010

    Go “vote” in my most recent blog, a straw poll on the GC bill.



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