Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Earmarks: Not a Lot Has Changed

Why do earmarks remain so difficult to curb? Because politicians believe voters still like them. And there's a reason that people like Rep. Charles Taylor stay in office: they know what the voters like.

Taylor is in a very tough race for re-election in a swing district in North Carolina that rates as a 'must-have' for Democrats to take over the House. He faces Heath Shuler, who so far has looked more like the Tennessee QB than the Redskins failure on the campaign trail.

The Hill reports this AM that Taylor is 'banking on earmarks' for his re-election bid. Professor Larry Sabato explains why:

“Earmarks have helped many a congressman in a competitive district get reelected under adverse political conditions,” said Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “People are grateful. It creates jobs, generates additional dollars. … All those people who benefit from earmarks are going to realize the payday may stop if Taylor gets defeated.”

In a way, this is simply another manifestation of the age-old phenomenon that voters hate Congress, but love their Congressman. In this case, voters hate pork-barrel spending, but love a Congressman who attends to district needs. I suspect that the best one can hope for is the system that porkbusters and their supporters in Congress are pushing for: full disclosure of who is responsible for an earmark, and as many procedural hurdles as possible to ensure that they're not super-easy to secure.

Polls show that Taylor trails by 4 percentage points in this race.

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