$100,000 ear­mark is 2,700 miles off tar­get

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

When he ear­marked $100,000 in tax­payer spending to go to Jamestown’s li­brary, Rep. James E. Cly­burn meant for it to go to the li­brary in Jamestown, S.C., which is in his district.

But in the bus­tle to write and pass the $1.1 tril­lion catchall spending bill, Congress ended up des­ig­nat­ing the money for Jamestown, Calif. — 2,700 miles away and a town that doesn’t even have a li­brary.

“That fig­ures for gov­ern­ment, doesn’t it,” said Chris Pip­kin, who runs the one-room li­brary in Jamestown, S.C., and ear­lier this year re­quested $50,000, not the $100,000 that Congress des­ig­nated, to buy new com­put­ers and build shelves to hold the books strewn across the room.

The li­brary is just one of more than 5,000 “earmarks,” or pork­bar­rel spending projects, to­tal­ing $3.9 bil­lion, tucked in­side the re­port ac­com­pa­ny­ing the catchall spending bill Congress sent to Pres­i­dent Obama last week. Mr. Obama signed the $1.1 tril­lion bill on Dec. 16, vi­o­lat­ing his own pledge to al­low the pub­lic five days to com­ment on bills be­fore he signs them.

The bill, which funds most do­mes­tic fed­eral agen­cies for fis­cal 2010, in­cludes projects such as $200,000 to study el­derly Ir­ish im­mi­grants in New York, $1 mil­lion to add plumb­ing to houses in Mary­land and $487,000 to build of­fice space so Win­ston-Salem, N.C., can try to at­tract busi­nesses to a blighted area.

The most ex­pen­sive items are mil­i­tary construction projects, and among the big­gest is $26.4 mil­lion to build a fit­ness cen­ter at a May­port Naval Sta­tion in Florida, re­quested by Rep. An­der Cren­shaw, Florida Repub­li­can.

With no in­door pool at May­port, search-and-res­cue divers have trou­ble do­ing year-round train­ing, and the weather in Florida is so hot that it’s con­sid­ered danger­ous to ex­er­cise out­doors dur­ing most of the sum­mer and much of the spring and fall, Mr. Cren­shaw’s of­fice said.

Mem­bers of Congress are re­quired to sub­mit let­ters jus­ti­fy­ing each re­quest, and rules that Democrats im­posed this year also re­quire them to pub­lish those re­quests so the pub­lic can view them.

One of the more col­or­ful jus­ti­fi­ca­tions was from Rep. Adam H. Put­nam, Florida Repub­li­can, who asked for $810,000 to fund a pi­lot pro­gram for school safety in Polk County. Mr. Put­nam used psy­chol­o­gist Abra­ham Maslow’s hi­er­ar­chy of needs to ar­gue that safety is among the most fun­da­men­tal of hu­man needs, topped only by food, wa­ter and shel­ter.

“Ed­u­ca­tors and school ad­min­is­tra­tors alike know that stu­dents who do not feel safe in school have dif­fi­culty con­cen­trat­ing in class and re­tain­ing what is taught and that pos­i­tive stu­dent en­gage­ment in the class­room is a key fac­tor in pro­mot­ing stu­dent achieve­ment,” Mr. Put­nam wrote.

The pro­gram was awarded $150,000.

In his let­ter jus­ti­fy­ing the li­brary project, Mr. Cly­burn, a Demo­crat and Ma­jor­ity Whip, says clearly that the money is des­ig­nated for Jamestown, S.C., so the er­ror must have hap­pened some­where in the ap­pro­pri­a­tions process.

Con­gres­sional staffers said ty­pos hap­pen and the li­brary mix-up prob­a­bly can be fixed by Congress let­ting the ad­min­is­tra­tion know the in­tent of the money.

But crit­ics of ear­mark spending said the episode shows that the sys­tem is bro­ken.

“It’s still an aw­ful lot of money for a small li­brary,” said Thomas A Schatz, pres­i­dent of Cit­i­zens Against Gov­ern­ment Waste. “It’s kind of typ­i­cal. We’ve had our ‘dis­cus­sions’ with Con­gress­man Cly­burn. It’s not a big sur­prise he would just dou­ble this without any­one even ask­ing.”

Mr. Cly­burn’s of­fice said he de­cided to dou­ble the li­brary’s re­quest af­ter vis­it­ing the li­brary and find­ing it over­crowded with books on the floor.

“When he had gone down to look into the project, he de­ter­mined more fund­ing was re- quired to meet the needs of this un­der­served com­mu­nity,” said spokes­woman Kristie Greco.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Le­hti­nen, a Repub­li­can, and Rep. Debbie Wasser­man Schultz, a Demo­crat, teamed up to ask for $100,000 to build bus shelters in the wealthy com­mu­nity of Bal Har­bour, Fla., but Congress more than dou­bled that amount to $250,000.

With spending bal­loon­ing, some law­mak­ers have called on Mr. Obama to crack down on earmarks by ve­to­ing spending bills.

Ear­lier this year, when he signed the bills to fund the gov­ern­ment for 2009, Mr. Obama said he was not happy about the num­ber of earmarks but that he would sign the bill be­cause it was leftover busi­ness from the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion.

On Dec. 16, though, the pres­i­dent signed the $1.1 tril­lion 2010 om­nibus spending bill into law without is­su­ing any com­ment.

Still to land on his desk is the 2010 de­fense spending bill, which passed the House this week and is ex­pected to clear the Se­nate over the week­end.

It in­cludes more than 1,700 ad­di­tional earmarks cost­ing $4.2 bil­lion.

Mean­while, in the do­mes­tic agen­cies bill, one of the more strik­ing earmarks is $200,000 to be spent on study­ing el­derly Ir­ish im­mi­grants in Queens, N.Y. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Demo­crat, re­quested $500,000 to go to the Gal­lagher Out­reach Pro­gram Inc. His of­fice said the pro- gram is new and not yet reg­is­tered as a fed­er­ally rec­og­nized non­profit, so it will op­er­ate for now un­der the Fund for the Ad­vance­ment of So­cial Ser­vices, which is rec­og­nized.

Af­ter the death of 72-year-old An­thony Gal­lagher last year in his Queens home went undis­cov­ered for days, Ir­ish com­mu­nity leaders said they wanted to take an in­ven­tory of Ir­ish im­mi­grants to try to aid out­reach ef­forts.

El­derly Ir­ish im­mi­grants aren’t the only cat­e­gory of folks get­ting spe­cial help. The bill has $155,000 — $1,000 more than Rep. Tammy Bald­win, Wis­con­sin Demo­crat, re­quested — for Di­verse and Re­silient Inc. The group runs a pro­gram “to im­prove the re­sponse to in­ti­mate part­ner vi­o­lence” be­tween mem­bers of les­bian or gay cou­ples.

Few things are left be­yond the reach of tax­pay­ers’ benef­i­cence.

The Rhode Is­land School of De­sign, where the cost of tu­ition, books, room and meals is about $50,000 per stu­dent per year, is get­ting $150,000, along with the equally ex­pen­sive Brown Uni­ver­sity, to help ad­vise busi­nesses on how to de­sign and mar­ket en­vi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive “green” prod­ucts.

For­mer Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s home­town of Wasilla is get­ting $500,000 to ex­pand air­plane park­ing space at the air­port.

Dur­ing last year’s cam­paign, Mrs. Palin, the Repub­li­can vi­cepres­i­den­tial can­di­date, claimed credit for re­fus­ing money for the “Bridge to Nowhere,” pos­si­bly the most fa­mous ear­mark of all time.

The Wasilla air­port money came at the re­quest of Rep. Don Young, Alaska Repub­li­can. At­tempts to reach Mrs. Palin for her thoughts on the project were un­suc­cess­ful.

The bill spends slightly less than $5 mil­lion to fund six sep­a­rate stud­ies of how cli­mate change will af­fect dif­fer­ent places, from the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay to the White Moun­tains of New Hamp­shire.

That doesn’t in­clude the $180,000 that Rep. Michael M. Honda, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, se­cured for San Jose State Uni­ver­sity to add a field ex­pe­ri­ence class to the school’s me­te­o­rol­ogy pro­gram. Ac­cord­ing to the con­gress­man’s re­quest, “th­ese stu­dents, who will in the fu­ture be weather fore­cast­ers not only in Cal­i­for­nia but across the na­tion, can be ex­pected to en­counter chang­ing cli­mate and weather, as well as more ex­tremes of weather as global cli­mate change con­tin­ues.”

Sen. Ed­ward M. Kennedy, a Demo­crat who died in Au­gust, left his mark on the bill, with his name at­tached to at least 86 earmarks, for a to­tal of $87.3 mil­lion.

His fel­low law­mak­ers from Mas­sachusetts did not for­get his legacy. They ear­marked $13.6 mil­lion of ed­u­ca­tion funds for the Ed­ward M. Kennedy In­sti­tute for the Se­nate in Bos­ton.

KATIE FALKEN­BERG/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

House Demo­cratic Whip James E. Cly­burn of South Carolina tried to ear­mark $100,000 for a li­brar y in Jamestown, S.C., but the money was mis­di­rected to Jamestown, Calif.

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