As the comments section of our post on Thursday shows - understanding earmarks and pork-barrel spending can be tough. You can be a snappy political operative and still have difficulty following the trail of federal money.
That's why I'm grateful for what the Pittsburg Morning Sun addressed in their Monday issue.
Perhaps the best-known example of pork spending is the "Bridge to Nowhere," a $223 million allocation to build a bridge from a small Alaskan town to a tiny island.
Pork is often a type of government spending categorized as earmarks. Earmarks occur when Congress makes specific funding provisions for a particular use or recipient.
If pork is such an issue, where do local politicians rank and what are they doing about it?
As someone commented on the blog last week said there are two different issues we're talking about when we address pork and earmarks.
1. Earmark reform is for back scratching earmarks....The Pittsburg Sun quotes rankings for all of the Kansas Reps.
There is a huge difference from bringing back money to one's state that is rightfully theirs ... (See "federalism") and money allocated to one's friends or relatives or campaign contributors.
2. Boyda's earmarks are not allocated to specific contracts, corporations, or people that are contributors to her campaign or associated with her campaign....
"The Taxpayers for Common Sense releases an annual list of earmarks among politicians.
"According to that list, U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) is 36th out of the 445 representatives listed (while there are only 435 representatives in the House, ten of them have been replaced in the last year) in the amount of granted earmarks with $66.8 million in earmarks. U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda (D-Kan.) is 102nd with $38 million. U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) comes in at No. 374 with $8 million, followed closely by Rep. Dennis Moore (D-Kan.) at No. 380 with $7.4 million....
"Those numbers were for earmarks, not necessarily for pork spending.
"The "Pig Book" has similar, but not identical results for pork spending. Tiahrt ranks 33rd with 61 projects for $76.4 million. Moran is tied for 99th with 19 projects for $40.4 million. Boyda is tied for 110th with 48 projects for $37.3 million. Moore is tied for 363rd with 24 projects for $7.8 million...."
A similar story also appeared in the Lawrence Journal World today talking specifically about the local effects of earmarks for the University of Kansas.
“These are not a bridge to nowhere. There are not something we just dreamed up,” Yehle said. “We will use this equipment every day. We identify a need and then try to find funding.”
In 2008, KU received four earmarks: $2.3 million for research and development on advanced vehicle technology, $1.1 million for a biodiversity research center, $700,000 for pharmaceutical small-business development and about $406,000 for equipment in the office of therapeutics. Kansas’ U.S. Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts and Rep. Nancy Boyda helped secure KU earmarks.....
This year, KU was relatively small potatoes on the earmark list. Out of 848 schools, KU was 107th for the amount of earmarks received. Two other Kansas universities, Kansas State and Wichita State, both received substantially more. WSU received $17.5 million — 15th most nationally — and KSU received $11.5 million, making it 36th on the list.
Yehle said it’s nearly worthless to compare rankings because they swing wildly from year to year. As an example, he said KU received a multimillion-dollar earmark in a 2005 federal highway bill.
This comes after Congresswoman Nancy Boyda unveiled new legislation that demands unprecedented transparency in the Congressional earmarking process on Friday. Under Boyda's resolution, H.Res. 1072, all Members of Congress would be required to disclose their requests for federal earmarks on their official Congressional websites.
"It's time for meaningful transparency in every step of the earmarking process," Boyda said. "Once the American people know how lawmakers want to spend their tax dollars, they'll hold Congress accountable. They won't let Congress waste their money."
Boyda added, "In this day and age, it only takes a few clicks to publish your earmark requests online. If Congress has nothing to hide, then we shouldn't hesitate to post that information for all the world to see."
Boyda has already set the precedent for online disclosure by posting all of her earmark requests to her official website, http://boyda.house.gov/. A complete list of Boyda's requests for the 2009 fiscal year may be found at http://boyda.house.gov/?sectionid=53.