Thursday, July 19, 2007

Earmarks: McHenry, Murtha & The House

Two stories that say a lot about the US House Of Representatives:

From The Crypt's Blog at entitled "What's In Your Wallet?":

Republican Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, the fiscal crusader who's never met an earmark he likes, questioned Democratic Rep. Peter J. Visclosky of Indiana on the House floor Tuesday about whether the Center for Instrumented Critical Infrastructure actually exists - since, hey, it's getting like a million bucks or something.

Visclosky, who chairs the spending subcommittee responsible for the project, had to admit that, well, he didn't have a clue.

After a lengthy back-and-forth, Flake, complaining that his staff couldn't find a website for the center, asked Visclosky, "Does the center currently exist?"

"At this time, I do not know," the Indiana Democrat replied. "But if it does not exist, the monies could not go to it."

And who could possibly be the sponsor of such an earmark? Yes, you guessed it, the man Republicans love to hate, Pennsylvania Democrat John P. Murtha. Despite the money's uncertain destination, the House rejected Flake's measure to strike the funds, 326-98. And the Visclosky bill also sailed through, 312-112.

And this update now in the article:

UPDATE: I failed to report last night that a certificate filed with the requested funds says the money is actually earmarked to Concurrent Technologies Corporation, a nonprofit technological consulting firm. A brief search of campaign finance records shows CTC President and CEO Daniel R. DeVos, of alternately Central City and Johnstown, Pa. has contributed $7,000 to Murtha's reelection campaign since April 2002.

Now, story number two concerning my own Representative from North Carolina, from the Winston-Salem Journal, "House Axes Perfect Christmas Tree":

The House killed The Perfect Christmas Tree.

When U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-10th, asked for federal tax money to expand a commercial development in rural Western North Carolina known as the Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree, the House turned him down flat.

So far this year, the House had not voted to reject a single earmark request - until this one.

McHenry had angered so many House members with attacks on earmarked spending that when he put in a request of his own, the long knives came out.

By a 249-174 vote, the House voted on June 28 to eliminate $129,000 from a spending bill that would have expanded a Christmas-crafts store in economically depressed Mitchell County.

...Two weeks before the vote, McHenry helped tie up the House for more than three days by criticizing the secrecy of special projects other House members wanted. He said he wanted to “hold the Democrats accountable for their slush fund, their secret earmarks and their pork-barrel projects.”

McHenry insisted that he was not fighting earmarked projects but the secrecy. The Democratic leadership did not want to disclose the earmarks until just before a final vote.

“I fought against keeping earmarks secret,” McHenry said in an interview. “I’m proud to say we won that battle.”

...In 2003, the Mitchell County Development Foundation started the Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree in Spruce Pine with money from the federal Appalachian Regional Commission and private investors. McHenry said he should have requested the earmark for the foundation, an
economic-development organization, instead of the Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree.

But he defended spending federal money to help a local economy devastated by international trade. Over the last five years, the county has lost a third of its manufacturing jobs to overseas furniture and textile competition.

The craft center’s name came from a popular children’s book, The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston.

Last Christmas, first lady Laura Bush picked the store’s hand-blown ornaments and Carolina Snowflake woven-reed ornaments for two White House Christmas trees. She lauded the people of Spruce Pine for working together “to figure out a new industry for themselves.”

You will find an earlier post of mine on McHenry's tough relationship with the other side of the aisle and earmarks a few weeks ago. That post is here.

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