Thursday, November 08, 2007

Who Needs Earmark Reform?

Democrats claim that they've enacted earmark reform to curtail abuses. I don't want to say that claim is a joke, but we've gone through the problems with their approach before. My personal favorite: if David Obey inserts the earmark, it doesn't count -- apparently because he's not a Member of the House; he's an institution.

Today we get a pretty clear demonstration that the the Democratic 'reforms' have changed nothing:

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a passionate golf player, sponsored a $3 million earmark in the 2008 military spending bill for a program that attracts disadvantaged and minority children to the game of golf.

Even though Clyburn’s earmark appears minor in the face of a $471 billion defense bill that contains about $5 billion in disclosed member projects, it stands out because it has little to do with the military and was only introduced as part of the conference negotiations between the House and the Senate.

The project is attracting criticism from watchdog organizations such as Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), which included the earmark as part of its pork alert to the 2008 defense appropriations bill.

In August the City of Columbia Golf Center was renamed the James E. Clyburn Golf Center, complete with a statue of the lawmaker. The golf center was built in 2002 with money that Clyburn helped obtain. The center is also a participant in The First Tee program, initiated by the PGA Tour and the World Golf Foundation in 1997 on the heels of Tiger Woods’ growing success in golf.

Why is it such a big deal that the earmark was 'airdropped' into the conference report, after both the House and Senate completed action on the bill? Because a conference report is non-amendable. The only way to cancel the funds now is to defeat the entire $471 billion bill -- which is not going to happen. This is probably the reason that Clyburn waited until the conference committee to insert this tribute to himself.

Check out this recent column by Jim DeMint over at Captain's Quarters, which chronicles the problems with the Democrats' non-reform.

And note: this neat little Clyburn earmark was inserted in contradiction to the reform called for last year by Democratic Caucus Chair Rahm Emanuel. Go take a look at the Emanuel plan to see how ambitious Democrats were until they took power.

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