Sunday, October 28, 2007

Lend me your ear-marks

By Libby

As I said earlier, earmarks are a huge part of what ails our government. They're little more than a incumbent protection racquet, but that's true on both sides of the fence, so I find the current trend in the media to paint this as a Democratic issue more than a little deceitful. Democrats are probably as guilty as the GOP but when it comes to using our tax dollars for political payola, the GOP does it bigger and 'better' as evidenced by this latest revelation about our Senate Minority Leader.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is pushing $25 million in earmarked federal funds for a British defense contractor that is under criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and suspected by American diplomats of a "longstanding, widespread pattern of bribery allegations."

McConnell tucked money for three weapons projects for BAE Systems into the defense appropriations bill, which the Senate approved Oct. 3. The Defense Department failed to include the money in its own budget request, which required McConnell to intercede, said BAE spokeswoman Susan Lenover.

He was required to intercede? By whom? Funny, I seemed to have missed the national groundswell agitating for corporate welfare for corrupt cronies. His reasons for interceding are all too clear.
BAE is based in Great Britain but has worldwide operations, including a Louisville facility that makes naval guns and employs 322. McConnell has taken at least $53,000 in campaign donations from BAE's political action committees and employees since his 2002 re-election. United Defense Industries, which BAE purchased two years ago, pledged $500,000 to a political-science foundation the senator created, the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville.

The standard disclaimers have been issued that the contributions have nothing to do with the earmark. McConnell, who sits on the Defense Committee in charge of appropriations simply decided to override the decision of the Defense Department not to fund the project because -- well who knows? I've yet to see a credible explanation.

This is just one instance of tens of thousands that go undiscovered every year. Requring the politicians to publicly claim the earmarks is a start towards solving this shameless use of our tax money for political purposes but it seems to me we still need a better way to keep track of them. I see no reason that every earmark request couldn't be made available on-line in an easily accessible database and I can think of ten of billions that they should be. Maybe it's time we insisted they do it.

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