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Earmarks Rob Taxpayers to Benefit Politicians

Will this presidential election be the most important in American history?

(Released Dec 2007)

Remember “The Mod Squad” television series that ran on ABC from 1968 to 1973? Chronicling three diverse, hipper-than-hip young cops working in the counter-culture movement of the day, the network promoted it with the tagline “One White, One Black, One Blonde.”

A similar group seems to have formed among some prominent New York lawmakers. Instead of Pete, Linc and Julie, however, the team is now composed of Senator Charles Schumer (D), Representative Charles Rangel (D) and Senator Hillary Clinton (D).

Call them “The Rob Squad.”

Today, it’s all about “earmarks” – in which lawmakers insert amendments into legislation so taxpayer dollars are spent on special interest projects in their states or districts. Elected officials like earmarks because they generate positive media coverage and earn them a reputation of creating jobs and stimulating the local economy.

One not-so-groovy example of an earmark is the one for The Museum at Bethel Woods – also called the “Woodstock museum” – because it focuses on the 1969 counter-culture music festival held nearby. While the museum was largely financed by billionaire Alan Gerry, Senators Schumer and Clinton teamed up to earmark $1 million for it in the funding bill for the federal Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services.

Purely by coincidence, Gerry and his family donated $20,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and $9,200 to Clinton’s presidential campaign after the earmark was introduced.

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who initiated an amendment to block the Woodstock museum earmark, said, “It’s institutional corruption. Especially during a time of war, why are we giving money to a performing arts center to fund some hippie flashback?” Senator Coburn’s amendment passed on a voice vote – keeping the earmark out of that bill – but there can be no doubt that the desire to introduce it again is still alive.

Another “far-out” idea from House Ways and Means Chairman Rangel is a $2 million earmark he obtained to help create the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York. The earmark includes funding for the Charles Rangel Library, the Rangel Conference Center and a personal office for Rangel’s use. The majority of the Center’s estimated $30 million cost is supposed to be paid by individuals, foundations and corporate donors. Taxpayers, however, are still helping build yet another office – in addition to an existing district office in the smallest congressional district in America – for a man who pleads “I’m 76 years old… I don’t buy green bananas” when asked about continuing the Bush tax cuts past 2010.

In this case, pride is the apparent motivation. When Representative John Campbell (R-CA), who was elected to the House in 2005, questioned the earmark on the House floor, Chairman Rangel – who was first elected in 1970 – replied: “I would have a problem if you did it, because I don’t think that you’ve been around long enough to inspire a building like this.”

Rangel’s project, also known as the “Monument to Me” earmark, is in the same spending bill as the proposed Woodstock museum earmark. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) proposed an amendment to block Rangel’s earmark, but the amendment was not as successful as Senator Coburn’s efforts and the earmark was saved by a vote of 34-61.

President Bush later vetoed the bill because it contained too much spending.

Earmarks are not just for “The Rob Squad.” Citizens Against Government Waste found 2,272 additional earmarks in that same bill alone. Earmarks are hard to get rid of anywhere because few lawmakers want to risk his or her own earmarks by opposing someone else’s. According to the Club for Growth, Representatives Campbell, Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) and Scott Garrett (R-NJ) presented 50 amendments in 2007 to strike earmarks from various bills. Only one was accepted.

After Democrats won majority status, they pledged Congress would be more fiscally responsible and beholden to ethics reform and full disclosure. President Bush signed “The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007” into law, calling for greater transparency by requiring the sponsors of earmarks to disclose who benefits from them and how much. Some Democrats are now trying to circumvent the law by claiming the disclosure provisions are limited. So much for campaign promises.

There’s nothing groovy about pork-barrel earmark spending when it comes to our hard-earned tax dollars. Like the 60s, such irresponsibility should be a thing of the past.

Deneen Borelli

Deneen Borelli is the author of Blacklash: How Obama and the Left are Driving Americans to the Government Plantation. Deneen is a contributor with Newsmax Broadcasting. She is a former Fox News contributor and has appeared regularly on “Hannity,” “Fox & Friends,” “Your World with Neil Cavuto,” and “America’s Newsroom.” She has also appeared on Fox Business Network programs “Making Money with Charles Payne,” “The Evening Edit with Liz MacDonald,” and “Cavuto: Coast to Coast.” Previously, Deneen appeared on MSNBC, CNN, the BBC and C-SPAN. In addition to television, Deneen co-hosted radio programs on the SiriusXM Patriot channel with her husband Tom. Recently, Deneen co-hosted the Reigniting Liberty podcast with Tom. Deneen is a frequent speaker at political events, including the FreedomWorks 9.12.2009 March on D.C. which drew a crowd estimated at over 800,000 people. Deneen is also an Ambassador with, a social media platform that promotes free speech, and with the America First Policy Institute (AFPI) which advances policies that put Americans first. Deneen testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources in May 2011 and before the Ohio House Public Utilities Committee in December 2011. Previously, Deneen was a host, Outreach Director with overseeing its outreach program, a Project 21 Senior Fellow, and Manager of Media Relations with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Prior to joining CORE, Deneen worked at Philip Morris USA for 20 years. During her corporate career at Philip Morris she worked in various positions, her last as Project Management Coordinator in the Information Management department where she was responsible for the department’s mandated quality processes, communications, sales information and database management. Deneen began her Philip Morris career as a secretary and advanced to positions of increasing responsibilities. Deneen worked full-time and attended classes at night for 11 years to earn her B.A. in Managerial Marketing from Pace University, New York City. Deneen served on the Board of Trustees with The Opportunity Charter School in Harlem, New York. She appeared in educational videos for children, worked as a runway fashion model, and auditioned for television commercials. Her interests include ancient history, pistol target shooting, photography, and volunteering at her church. Deneen currently resides in Connecticut with her husband Tom.

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