I'm a Pundit Too

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ken Calvert and the War Against Earmarks

There is a difference between the shady land deals of Harry Reid and the shady land deals of Ken Calvert. The difference is that conservatives are fighting Calvert. Erick Erickson, editor in chief of redstate.com is calling upon conservatives to have Calvert removed from the Appropriations Committee.
"The House Republican Leadership just does not get it and they will not take us seriously until we flex our muscle against them. We must fight the House GOP and we must fight today. Today, I declare war on the Republican Leadership of the United States House of Representatives. We must scalp one member. That member's name is Ken Calvert," Erick declares on his redstate blog. Michelle Malkin has done a good job of covering this story.

Erick is encouraging members of his blog to flood their lawmakers with phone calls every day compiling a list of those who vote for Calvert. He is currently claiming that many Republicans on the Hill support his efforts.

By now you are wondering what this is all about. Well, remember that wide spread story that was front page news for all those months about Harry Reid buying land, and then selling it years later for a massive profit AFTER securing federal earmarks that may have helped the property value? You remember that don't you? Cunningham is in prison for pretty much the same thing. It was all over, no wait; it actually wasn't all over the place. No one really heard much about it. Oh well. The point is that it happened and nothing was done about it. The other point is that this is what Calvert is being accused of doing, and it really looks as though he is guilty. I don't know that what he did was technically wrong, but it doesn't look good and it brings up a bigger point that I will get to in a minute.

In September 2006, Calvert was named one of the "20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress" in a report by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. He was given this award for his use of earmarks for personal gain. Calvert claims that the earmarks were all used for his district, but the land deals he has engaged in have all been in or near his district. This looks suspicious whether he is guilty or not. A list of his deals can be found at answers.com.

I don't know if he has done anything illegal or technically unethical. But I don't like the way it looks and I don't like the answers he has given. I think that Erickson is doing all Republicans a favor by bringing this out in the open and I hope that Calvert is replaced in the next election. Now if Calvert were a democrat who was caught with a hundred grand in his freezer and the FBI had people admitting to bribing him, that would be one thing. But the republicans are getting tired of their representatives taking advantage of tax dollars.

And that brings us to the root cause of this evil – earmarks. In the last SOTU address, President Bush spoke out against earmarks, calling on Congress to cut them in half. "In 2005 alone, the number of earmarks grew to over 13,000 and totaled nearly $18 billion. Even worse, over 90 percent of the earmarks never make it to the floor of the House and the Senate; they're dropped into committee reports that are not even part of the bill that arrives on my desk.
You didn't vote them into law. I didn't sign them into law. Yet they are treated as if they have the force of law. The time has come to end this practice.
So let us work together to reform the budget process, expose every earmark to the light of day and to a vote in Congress, and cut the number and cost of earmarks at least in half by the end of this session."

Does anyone see a problem with federal tax dollars being spent in this manner? Earmarks are treated as law, yet there is no vote. And this is what Calvert has done. He dropped millions of your dollars into land in his district. He then made personal profits selling the land.

If earmarks receive no vote whatsoever, how are we to trust Congress to use them wisely? Short answer, we can't trust them. Earmarks are the face of much corruption in D.C. The lobbyist drops ten grand into the politician’s campaign; the politician returns the favor with earmarks that benefit the lobbyist. Can you say Jack Abramoff? And beyond lobbyists, we see that politicians are using earmarks to raise the value of their own properties.

The President was almost right to ask for earmarks to be cut in half. He was almost right to have the OMB set up a database of all earmarks for us to see. He would have been completely right to tell Congress to cut earmarks off all together. The absolute best we can expect from them is the constant appearance of impropriety.

This is one more thing that gives Congress too much power, corrupting power. And to use Erickson's line, we must flex our muscle against them. "If they refuse to hear that change is needed, we will wipe them out and replace them with new blood that recognizes that a corrupt party rejected by the voters will not be embraced again by the voters until the corruption is purged."

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