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  • Governors Cannot Earmark

    Posted by Shannon Love on September 15th, 2008 (All posts by )

    This Wall Street Journal article [h/t Instapundit] makes it seem like Sarah Palin is a hypocrite for criticizing earmarks even though she has requested earmark after earmark for Alaska. 

    Only one problem exists for this scenario: Governors cannot earmark. Indeed, governors may not make any formal input to federal legislation in the least. 

    The Wall Street Journal needs to reread the Constitution.

    The problem with earmarks lies less in their often seemingly trivial and non-federal import than in the unaccountable mechanism by which individual federal legislators turn them into law. Earmarks lead to corruption by allowing individual legislators to reward constituents and contributors without having to stand up and argue publicly for spending the funds. In short, earmarks represent a defect in the parliamentary procedure of the federal Congress. The term “earmark” isn’t simply shorthand for “federal spending I do not like.”

    As such, earmarks represent a flaw in the federal Congress, not the state governments. No one in state government can “request” an earmark. An official of a state government can only (1) apply for federal funds made available through existing federal legislation or (2) make an informal request to the state’s federal representatives that they argue for particular funding. In neither case is the governor responsible for how the federal government makes the funding available. 

    Trying to tie Palin to earmarks requires constructing a straw-man representation of her and McCain’s arguments in which they argue that the government should never spend federal money on specific state projects. Since they haven’t done so but, rather, merely argued for reforming the parliamentary procedure of the federal Congress, to make it more accountable, this article provides no new insight into Palin. 

    Of course, we all know how this is going to play out in the media, don’t we? We all know this will show up in the campaign arguments of that professor of constitutional law, Barack Obama. 

    [update (2008.9.15.11:24): Sometimes you get so incredibly lucky. The first post in the thread beloowhighlights exactly the kind of argument I expect to see against Palin i.e. the state of Alaska requested money from the federal government therefor Palin requested earmarks. This will soon become revealed wisdom for leftist and questioning it will be heresy.]

     

    28 Responses to “Governors Cannot Earmark”

    1. republican disasters Says:

      From Rupert Murdock’s WSJ:

      During an appearance Friday on ABC’s “The View,” Sen. McCain said Gov. Palin shared his views, and hasn’t sought congressional earmarks. “Not as governor she hasn’t,” he said.

      In fact, in the current fiscal year, she is seeking $197 million for 31 projects, the records show. In the prior year, her first year in office, she sought $256 million for dozens more projects ranging from research on rockfish and harbor-seal genetics to rural sanitation and obesity prevention. By comparison, her predecessor, Gov. Frank Murkowski, sought more than $350 million in his last year in office.

      The McCain campaign is LYING LIKE A RUG and right-wing sycophants like this site want them to get away with it.

      The shutting up of opposition is critical to running a county in a undemocratic way.

    2. RG Wayne Says:

      Well,well. We see at least one Democrat cannot even read. “Republican Disaster” obviously didn’t even bother to read the article that he “replied” to. He is further displaying his ignorance in what constitutes “earmarks” (see the article).

      The process known as “earmark” needs to be ended immediately! It is a process which has no accountability. I think that any elected official of the federal government who does supports earmarks should be banned from government service of any kind. We want accountability and a democratic process – not a process that allows Senators to spend government money with no accountability and with no public debate or vote.

    3. Jonathan Says:

      The shutting up of opposition is critical to running a county in a undemocratic way.

      Is someone shutting you up?

    4. Shannon Love Says:

      Republican Disasters,

      First, let me thank you for making my point for me in such a dramatic and demonstrative fashion.

      In fact, in the current fiscal year, she is seeking $197 million for 31 projects…

      Again, not all federal spending is earmarks. I understand that leftist who think the state can do no wrong love earmarks because it lets individual politicians build little empires. I also understand that people who support earmarks wish to conflate earmarks with all federal spending in order to keep the people form shutting down the practice.

      Again, earmarks are defined by the dishonest way in which they get approved. Whether the federal government should be involved in individually allocated funds for local projects of no federal import is a separate issue. (my 2 cents, it should not)

      Again, governors can only request money already allocated for disbursement by the federal bureaucracy or they can make an informal request to the federal representatives to try and get the funding.

      The shutting up of opposition is critical to running a county in a undemocratic way.

      Yes, I had noticed. Why only this last two months, a candidate for office of the president tried to suppress speech critical of him by threatening boycotts and by requesting a justice department investigation of those private individuals who spoke against him. Supporters of that same candidate began an intimidation campaign against donors to the candidates opponents seeking to invade their personal lives and privacy for daring to participate in the democratic process.

      So, sadly you are correct. Attempts to suppress political speech in contemporary America are alive and well.

      Please stop by again. I often need someone to demonstrate my points for me.

    5. republican disasters Says:

      Republican Family Values:
      Apathy, Callousness, Greed, Self Serving Self Interest,
      Narcissism, Inhumanity, Death, Looting, Plundering.

      [update from Shannon Love: Do not reply to this comment. It is far off topic. I am only leaving it up because I suspect the author is trying to goad me into deleting it.]

    6. Shannon Love Says:

      Republican Disasters,

      Republican Family Values…

      I’m curious. What exactly do you hope to accomplish here beyond demonstrating to all of us classical liberals that you’re an ignorant, hate-filled, raving loon?

      Seriously, stay on topic and be polite or I will delete any subsequent post.

    7. Lexington Green Says:

      A non-negligible portion of these people have become worrisomely unhinged.

      I hope the bracing slap of a McCain / Palin victory will help them to snap out of it.

    8. Lexington Green Says:

      Shannon is like the one guy who is willing to talk to the piss-stained, spittle-spewing street-lunatic as if he were a man and a brother who may actually have something of value to add. I cannot muster that degree of charity. The cost/benefit calculus seems to far out of whack.

    9. MD Says:

      I don’t know if a McCain/Palin victory will help….a lot of the left of center blogs I read just cannot seem to get out of snark mode. I mean, I’m the most whining-ist, snark-ist person I know and even I’m thrown for a loop. Stop talking about Palin and start talking about middle class tax cuts I say, on left of center blog du jour, but, they just go back to the Palin snark. Cannot stop themselves. Odd.

      *Sorry if I’ve gone a bit off topic. Oh, yeah, earmarks. Nice to know small government conservatism is making inroads into the left, considering all the interest in Palin’s Alaska budget and in tax-cutting and earmarks…..

    10. Shannon Love Says:

      Lexington Green,

      I cannot muster that degree of charity.

      It’s not charity but enlightened self-interest. He makes my last point for me. Imagine some moderate fence sitter who wanders in and reads my post. Then he reads the first comment. What’s he going to think every time he hears someone on the left make that incoherent argument.

      I think it does a lot good for people to see this kind of hateful hysteria. It reminds them what the left really is.

    11. LotharBot Says:

      Regarding Shannon’s last two comments: I think it’s important to demonstrate to people that the Left is no longer liberal.

    12. Mrs. Davis Says:

      The bracing slap of a McCain/Palin victory will utterly unhinge a lot of these people. I suspect the upshot will be an increase in the dosage of their meds.

    13. Brian in Idaho Says:

      I found this article enlightening. It seems the left always tries to win a war of semantics rather than truths. I was fooled by the earmark term and a little depressed by what seemed hypocrisy. Thank you for the inservice. Thank you to Republican Disasters for you civility and driving me farther to the right.

    14. Pug Says:

      Governors cannot earmark. Indeed, governors may not make any formal input to federal legislation in the least.

      Of course they can’t and The Wall Street Journal article didn’t say she could.

      Governors can sure request Federal grants, though, and that’s what the article said she had done.

      Are you suggesting she didn’t request any Federal earmarks even though her state’s Senator was the biggest porker in the Senate was Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee?

      You are trying to skirt reality with a technical argument, no?

    15. Shannon Love Says:

      Pug,

      Of course they can’t and The Wall Street Journal article didn’t say she could.

      By tying her record or request to her stance on earmarks they strongly insinuated that she was getting earmarks. A large number of people took it that way e.g. the first comment on this thread.

      Governors can sure request Federal grants, though, and that’s what the article said she had done.

      From the parent: Trying to tie Palin to earmarks requires constructing a straw-man representation of her and McCain’s arguments in which they argue that the government should never spend federal money on specific state projects. Since they haven’t done so but, rather, merely argued for reforming the parliamentary procedure of the federal Congress, to make it more accountable, this article provides no new insight into Palin.

      In short, there is no reason to even mention earmarks in this article except to prejudice the reader into believing that Palin uses earmarks.

      Are you suggesting she didn’t request any Federal earmarks even though her state’s Senator was the biggest porker in the Senate was Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee?

      As governor, she has absolutely no control over how the federal congress conducts it business.

      A better question: Do you have any evidence that any of her request for federal dollars where granted via earmark?

    16. Gregory Koster Says:

      What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
      By any other name would smell as sweet.”

      Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

      Dear Shannon Love: First, is it Mr. or Ms. Love?

      We’re so proud of you, explaining earmarks so clearly to us dummies, using the legal word games in a manner that not only would get you an “A” at any law school, but an invite to join the faculty. Such talent for hair-splitting will carry you far.

      But: consider this gem from McC, as reported by ABC News, 3 February 08, here:

      http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=4235640

      The relevant portion:

      “Requiring governors of border states to certify that the flow of illegal immigrants has been halted is central to John McCain’s immigration plan. The Republican frontrunner says he will not move forward with earned legalization until certification is complete. Appearing on Bill O’Reilly’s program in August, McCain pointed to the Democratic governor of his home state of Arizona as key to his proposal. “If the governor of my state, who happens to be a Democrat, would be forced she would certify that the border is secure it would be secure,” said McCain. “And that would give credibility.” “You’d have to have all the border state governors certify it,” he added. “I think that would give credibility to our claim in Washington.” ”

      So: if McC can persuade Congress to write this notion into law, he’s handed the keys to the treasury to the state governors. All any border state gov has to do is sit on the certification until the Feds come through. To be sure, this can be overdone, and McC may lose patience and start sticking his finger into gubernatorial eyes, but McC has been beaten for his notions of moving the federal capital to Mexico City, and is willing to pay a high price. All legal, likely even constitutional (I’m sure we can find some of your fellow law school deans to trick up some argument that will fool the suckers, and even the Krytocracy.)

      There. Disingenuousness has been met with disingenuousness. Perhaps we can move past this to an honesty that doesn’t require so much hair-splitting and thimblerigging. Sarah Palin’s record on the practice of earmarking is mixed. Hiring lobbyists in an attempt to grab a chunk of the loot, as she did as Wasilla’s mayor is dismaying. But not too dismaying. Small town mayors and even governors of petro-states have a much tougher fiscal road to travel than the Feds do. I can’t be excessively harsh toward sharp state and local elbows at the federal trough. As you rightly point out, earmarking is bad because there’s precious little sunlight involved. If a project is worth doing, it is worth doing in the open, following the same rules as all other projects.

      Palin has improved greatly on her pronuncimentoes on earmarks. She sings the old sweet song beautifully. The question is, Does she really mean it? I think there’s room for hope here. Certainly compared to The One and his sordid record on earmarks, enirching his household in remarkably dubious ways, she looks 18 karat at least.

      What’s your next prestidigitation? Something like this?:

      Major premise: A United States Senator is a Federal official
      Minor Premise: The Daley Machine in Chicago is a local creation
      Conclusion: Barack Obama can have no formal relation to the Daley Machine, and hence is pure as the driven slush.

      You’re amusing, though I must confess such laughter dies out quickly, leaving irritation and boredom at the constant bombardment of bilge and disingenousness. The world is difficult enough to understand without adding a bucket of bilge per post.

      A much more telling question for Palin would be something like this:

      “Governor, your state floats on oil. Sooner or later, it will run out. When it does, 65%[a guess—GK] of Alaska’s state revenues will dry up. What have you done as Governor to prepare Alaska for the day when the citizenry has to cough up $3200 bucks per head—or more—instead of getting $3200, courtesy of the Triceratops mob of the Cretaceous era?

      Sincerely yours,
      Gregory Koster

    17. Anonymous Says:

      Dear Pug – Maybe this point has already been made but grants are different from earmarks. Grants have to go through an actual vetting process, a competitive, merit-based award process. Earmarks go through NO PROCESS. They are not authorized, they do not get hearings, they are not debated on the floor of the House or the Senate, and they are rarely subject to any rational oversight. Earmarks tend to originate with the requesting member of Congress. Yes, some localities and municipalities request projects by going directly to the member of Congress, but the discretion lies with the member of Congress and that money is expended OUTSIDE of the normal budget process. Every state in the country gets federal grants, for transportation projects, etc. That has always been the case and it will continue to be the case going forward. There seems to be an almost willful misunderstanding going on here, even among some of the so-called elite media.

    18. Nom de Blog Says:

      Gregory Koster,
      Are you trying to be irritating or does it just come naturally.

      The process is the thing. What matters is whether the procurements were made in the sunlight (as it were) or not. There is nothing wrong with “petition(ing) the Government for a redress of grievances” and the Constitution forbids we attempt to stop any citizen toward that end. Again, what matters is the manner in which the dole is dispensed.

    19. Shannon Love Says:

      Gregory Koster,

      Dear Shannon Love: First, is it Mr. or Ms. Love?

      What it is is irrelevant. It’s tedious to try to get everyone on the internet to get it right so I just stopped. Besides, it fun to watch people guess.

      As to the gist of your argument. Nothing you list in either Palin’s or McCain’s history deal with earmarks. As the previous two post covered, an earmark is defined by the secret way it gets inserted into law. I to believe that McCain’s idea is a bad one (even if I understand the problem it seeks to solve) but that does not mean that McCain has gone about securing that funding in a secret and unaccountable way.

      You’ve fallen for the trap laid by those who love earmarks. They’ve convinced you that an earmarks is any government spending. It’s not. Palin requested funds from the federal government (far less than her predecessor) but she had no input on how congress chose to approve those request.

      A governor cannot request an earmark, period. Only an elected member of the federal congress can do so.

    20. Rick L. Says:

      This article may shed some light on Palins record with regard to earmarks:

      “Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens is aggravated about what he sees as Gov. Sarah Palin’s antagonism toward the earmarks he uses to steer federal money to the state.”

      http://www.adn.com/front/story/343508.html

    21. Bradley Says:

      Well, I guess any sembalance of objectivity is gone. Why do we get into these smenatal arguments? I am sure if Barack Obama was govenor of the state of Alaska, was railing against earmarks to try to become VP, and it had come out that he had sought “earmarks” or “grants”, Shannon Love’s tune would be a lot different. It is much easier to talk about this silly stuff than to ask whether the Bush Tax Cuts have improved the economy.

    22. LotharBot Says:

      Would this be the Barack Obama who voted for the earmark for the Bridge to Nowhere(TM)? The guy running with Joe Biden, who also voted for the earmark for the Bridge to Nowhere(TM)?

      Earmarks and federal funds are not the same thing. Earmarks are ways to sneak funding into a bill without having it go through debate, without having your project compete with other projects, etc. They’re a way to procure funding for projects that don’t deserve to be funded. IMO, if you get rid of that and make projects actually compete for funding on their own merits, you clean up one serious problem with our government.

    23. Bradley Says:

      LotharBot,

      Agian, we are distracted from the main point. I am sure if Obama and Biden did not vote for the “Bridge to Nowhere” those on the right would (and probably McCain would run an ad) say he voted to not fund the troops.

      Yes, earmarks are a problem. (And the Republicans in Congress largely voted against ethics reforms.) But again, this is a digression on the original post. Palin wanted to bring money into the state she was goven or to improve the lives of her constituents (in the form of grants or earmarks, or whatever terminology you want to use) and now she is syaing the opposite when it is politically expedient. Lets just call a spade a spade. Can we do that?

    24. LotharBot Says:

      We can argue about whether federal funding should exist at all — but that’s not what we’re arguing about in this thread.

      In this thread, we’re arguing about whether federal funding should come through a secretive, non-competitive process (earmarks) or an open, competitive process (not-earmarks), and whether someone can be consistent by opposing the first while supporting the second. I think Palin is completely consistent in her going against earmarks while not having a problem with federal funding in general (though she was inconsistent in her earlier requests for earmarks as Wasilla’s mayor — if they were actual earmarks.)

    25. Shannon Love Says:

      Bradley,

      Why do we get into these smenatal arguments?

      Because the difference between funding request and “earmark” is the same as the difference between a person who receives a paycheck and a person who embezzles.

      Do you wish to argue that a wage earner and an embezzler are equivalent? Do you think someone who opposes embezzling is a hypocrite because they take their paycheck?

      This is the distinction we are talking about. Earmarks are not illegal but only because congress writes the law. A similar practice in the business arena would get people thrown in jail. Funding request made openly and debated openly are like a paycheck. You get them because you follow the rules. Earmarks are like embezzlement. Congressmen take advantage of arcane rules to get something they want in secret.

      It’s not semantics. There are two entirely separate phenomena.

    26. Bradley Says:

      I thought our debate was whether Palin’s comments about the Bridge to Nowhere were correct and consitstent. Her statements on the campaign trail are “I said thanks but no thanks” to the bridge to nowhere. But she still took the money. Whether it was an earmark or federal request, I don’t think any would argue she was implying she was going to give the money for “that” project back to congress, which she did not do. That to me is a lie.

    27. Shannon Love Says:

      Bradley,

      I thought our debate was whether Palin’s comments about the Bridge to Nowhere were correct and consitstent.

      No, this thread is about whether the idea launched by the WSJ article i.e. “Palin requested earmarks” is anywhere close to valid.

      Whether she is “consistent” or not on the entire issue of federal funding is another debate.

      But she still took the money. Whether it was an earmark or federal request, I don’t think any would argue she was implying she was going to give the money for “that” project back to congress, which she did not do. That to me is a lie.

      Sorry, this is not clear. Do you mean Palin lied when she said no thanks to the bridge or that her critics lied when they said she did not?

    28. Bradley Says:

      I mean she lied when she “no thanks to the bridge.” Because she did not return the money. Her statement imply she told the federal gov’t to keep the money. If you want to be intellectual honest about it, and imagine if you were a consultant comikng up with a line about the bridge to nowhere, your slogan would not be “I told the feds, thanks but no thanks regarding the bridge to nowhere, but we will use it for…” Palin seems to leave that out when she is on the stump. I wonder why?

      And I believe their is a mistake in the original premise in the post. You stated a governors cannot earmark. While this is correct and factually true, the article did not state she earmarked anything. It stated she “sought earmarks or special interest spending.”

      So, if semantics are important, which I will definitely conceed is true, than work on the premise. The McCain campiagn, as quoted in the article sure thinks a governor can request or seek earmarks because they deny she did.