Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Obama's gateway drug to corruption

Opponents of earmarks often explain that we need to end them because they are a 'gateway drug to corruption.' Politicians end up voting for some measure, not because they think it is a good policy, but because they are getting some goodie for their constituents that they can then use in a reelection campaign. It's gotten so that congressmen will hold back their votes until they can leverage some nice grant of federal largesse for their state or district.

Now Rob Bluey at the Heritage foundation has news of a study examining the connection between administrative earmarks that the Obama awarded and the connections between key votes on Obama policies like cap and trade, Dodd-Frank, and Obamacare. No surprise to see a spike in such earmarks at the time the votes were taken on those bill. And then when Heritage looked deeper into who was getting what and found that vulnerable Democrats in GOP-leaning districts got more of Obama's administrative earmarks.
Even more troubling: during the same time periods, significant grant money went to the districts of numerous Democratic representatives who looked to face tough battles for re-election. The legislation Obama was attempting to get through Congress was generally unpopular, and vulnerable members needed other ways to appeal to constituents. Federal grants made for a perfect opportunity.

Then-Rep. Chris Carney (D-PA), for instance, kept his support for Dodd-Frank quiet. His website never posted a press release announcing his “yes” vote on the bill. It did, however, tout two federal grants totaling $3.6 million for businesses in his district two days before the Dodd-Frank vote.

Then-Rep. Zach Space (D-OH) hailed from a district reliant on the coal industry, which would have been hit particularly hard by cap and trade. He voted for the measure, but neglected to publicize the vote on his website. He did, however, announce eight federal grants totaling roughly $1.8 million all made during the month before the House passed cap and trade.

At least 32 vulnerable House Democrats received significant federal grant money in the periods leading up to or directly after their votes on at least one of these three pieces of legislation (see charts below), raising concerns that those grants may have been used either to encourage or reward votes in favor of the administration’s position.
FDR used to do the same thing to funnel New Deal money to districts to help Democrats. Money wouldn't go to the poor in the South in the same way that it went to other areas that weren't so reliably Democratic. FDR didn't need to worry about losing the South so, despite the poverty there in the 30's, they didn't get as much largesse as other areas that were more problematic for Democrats and FDR's reelection. Nixon did the same thing. Some model for Obama. Other presidents have done this, but Obama is really kicking it up a notch as he uses the federal treasury for his own political purposes.
But while administrative earmarking is a practice used by nearly every administration, CRS found in a report published in April 2010 — immediately after the time period at issue — that “[b]oth the number and value of earmarks requested solely by the President increased since FY2008.” The number of earmarks had increased by 54 percent, CRS found, while the value of those requests had increased by a whopping 126 percent.
One of the perks of being president is to help your allies or, more precisely, sweeten the pot to get the votes you need on legislation. And if you're using the taxpayers' money to do it, all the better. Much more opaque than actual campaign contributions.

Correlation doesn't necessarily mean cause, but sometimes it can be revealingly suspicious. Remember when Democrats used to pontificate about the "appearance of corruption." Apparently, they don't care so much about that anymore.