2006-02-02 / View From the Middle

Earmark + Pork Barrel + Lobbyist = The Usual Greed

View From The Middle
By Charles Rogers


Do you know what “earmark” means? How about “pork barrel?” Both terms are from the political world, of course, with their derivation stemming from non-political sources. “Earmark” — defined as “an identifying feature” or “an identification mark on the ear of an animal.” It is also described as something “set aside for a particular purpose.”

Pork barrel, on the other hand, denotes a barrel located in a general store where “pork — the flesh of swine used as food — can be bought,” according to Webster’s Dictionary. It is also defined as “an appropriation or favor granted by governments for political reasons, rather than because of public necessity.” Webster also highlights pork barrel as “a government bill, appropriation or project undertaken or passed with the intention of placing legislators in the favor of their constituency.”

The current and burgeoning problems in and around Washington, D.C., the seat of our illustrious government, stem from those two terms, if you will: earmark and pork barrel. Oh, and one more has slithered its way into the mix: lobbyist. This is another neat word that Webster makes legitimate by defining it as, simply, “One who tries to get legislators to support certain measures.”

To put the three terms into one sentence sort of wraps up the current government dilemma: Lobbyists have been caught lately earmarking legislation that eventually finds its way into the pork barrel , making congressmen, especially, very happy — and rich — and well-known — and reelected — in their little town or big town back home. Lobbyists have been greasing the palms of legislators for years — nearly two centuries — so their clients will be able to have their selfish project tacked onto important legislation.

Here’s how it works (hypothetically): Say there is a huge appropriation to be voted on by Congress to construct a Hoover Dam-type project in New Mexico. There is no doubt the project will be for the good of the people of New Mexico and indeed the people of the country. It’s a slam-dunk to pass. It looks so good that voting on the bill will hardly even be partisan.

Lobbyist Mr. X (not a congressman), who has a client in, say, Oregon who wants $15 million for his apple orchards, wines and dines a few congressmen on the appropriations committee to persuade them to vote on the Hoover Dam-type thing in the middle of the night, when there won’t be much congestion in the House and it will pass swiftly.

It doesn’t sound so bad until you see what the lobbyist had in mind: To have the Oregon congressman tack his $15 million apple orchard appropriation onto the tail of the New Mexico bill. It’s simple. If the bill comes up in the middle of the night, there’s no opposition. The people of New Mexico are happy...and those people in Oregon are ecstatic and love their congressman so much they’ll vote for him (her) again and again...and maybe again, depending on how long his lobbyist can do his thing.

And that’s where the problem lies with Congress and lobbyists, etc. Seems, like all these things — earmark, pork barrels, whatever — have gotten out of hand. Greed has always been there, but now some of the greediest have been caught even accepting bribes to move certain laws in certain directions. The money has been flowing like mad. Your money and my money.

The dam in New Mexico was a necessity; the apple orchard in Oregon was not. It was $15 million that will do no one any good except those constituents under the apple tree. Oh, except a certain congressman and a certain lobbyist.

It goes on all the time. In most cases it’s not against the law, if bribery is not involved. Lately the complaint seems to be that lobbyists are not only wining and dining lawmakers, but paying for vacations and hotel accommodations and all those nice things you see in the travel folders.

An outfit called Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) is backing a bill by Senator John McCain (R-Ariz) to push for lobbying reform which is designed to make all these extra-added bills more visible and make them amendable. Discussion on lobby reform is due any day now. It might do us all

Continued on page 22 some good to listen up — closely. I repeat: it’s our money they’re fooling around with, legal or illegal.

Incidentally, from their own online poll, the CAGW has voted on their “Porkers of the Year.” Both senators from New York — Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Chuck Schumer — have the distinction of being named “Porkers of 2005.” Just thought you’d like to know. eventually would have a culinary affect, but, suffice to say, it’s certainly something we can get our teeth into now (Sorry — when you get the chance to use a pun, dammit, use it!).

Do you know what “earmark” means? How about “pork barrel?” Although there is an obvious culinary connection, both terms are from the political world, of course, with their derivation stemming from non-political definitions. Earmark has a few, such as “an identifying feature,” or “an identification mark on the ear of a domestic animal” or, “to set aside for a particular purpose.” Pork barrel, on the other hand, denotes a barrel located in a general store where “pork — the flesh of swine used as food can be bought,” according to Webster. It is also defined a “an appropriation or favor granted by governments for political reasons, rather than because of public necessity.” Webster highlights pork barrel as “a government bill, appropriation or project undertaken or passed with the intention of placing legislators in the favor of their constituency.”

That’s what it sez!

The current and burgeoning problems in Congress — and maybe in the Executive Branch too — stem from those two connected phrases: earmartks and pork barrel. Lobbyists (another term that needs defining: “One who tries to get legislators to support certain measures”) have been caught lately doing what they’ve been doing for years, uh, decades — greasing the palms of legislators so their clients back home will be able to have their selfish project tacked onto important legislation.

For instance…Say there’s a company back in your home state of Iowa that

Return to top

Copyright© 2000 - 2014
Canarsie Courier Publications, Inc.
All Rights Reserved