Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Earmarks, Donors and Jim Moran

Henry Hazlitt in his brilliant "Economics in One Lesson" talks about the dangers of funnelling government funding of projects into specific areas.  He argues that while the impact on the local region is very positive, one has to consider the dollars that are not spent in other places.  This means that while the local area benefits, there are projects and investments NOT made in other parts of the country.  So, the value created in one place is offset by the lack of value not created in another.

This can lead to an environment where corruption is easily bred.  Why?  Because, those who are the beneficiaries of the funding become dependent on the official who provides them.  Further, it leads to a cozy "I will scratch your back, if you scratch mine" relationship between the official and those who benefit most from the funding.

The late Congressman Murtha was the master of this.  He was so good at it, that he had an airport built in the middle of nowhere that required full time TSA staffing and maintenance for what amounted to two flights daily.  His constituents loved him for it and re-elected him over and over in spite of suspicion of corruption that at one point led to questions of ethics brought against him by the house.

Nonetheless, he turned his river of money that came from you and me into one of the best "loyalty" programs ever.  (American Express Rewards had nothing on Murtha).  One could almost argue that he corrupted an entire district and made them dependent on his largess.

Moran Tops US Congressmen in Contributions from Earmark Recipients

Could we be seeing something similar right here in our own backyard?    Recently in a June report by two nonpartisan organizations generally critical of earmarks, Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) and the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), it was reported that Congressman Jim Moran of Northern Virginia was the House leader in campaign contributions received from earmark recipients.  The report showed Democrat Jim Moran got $89,600.

According to"Moran received more than $80,000 from executives, political action committees and lobbyists of companies to whom he’s directed earmarks. In total, Moran has received $82,700 total from these committees and individuals, according to Federal Election Commission reports. MobilVox, Inc. tops the list of donors, contributing $8,300 to Moran and receiving a $2 million earmark.

(Further) Moran requested earmarks for donors totaling more than $50 million. The largest earmark requests were $3 million each, requested for EM Solutions, Inc., Argon ST and DDL Omni Engineering. All of the earmarks given to donors of Moran were defense appropriations.

Finally, it’s true that more than 20 percent of Moran’s $396,952 in donations last year came from these committees and individuals."

To be clear, at this point there is no reported evidence of corruption here.  It currently appears that all of this has been reported correctly.  Still, where there is a close connection between the people receiving the earmark and those who contribute to a campaign, it can give the appearance of a payoff.  At any rate it is logical that those who are the beneficiary of this largess, would be motivated to see Mr. Moran re-elected.  At the very least, this calls into question the congressman's judgement.

This also creates a less than fair playing field for candidates to compete for voters attention and votes.  Could we be seeing the seeds planted for a Murtha like abuse of privilege?  The greed of a handful of local people who benefit from this transfer of money from other parts of the country to here may be great for our local citizens but could be bad for our country. 

I believe our local citizens are smarter and more honorable than that.  When they realize that Congressman Jim Moran is not only playing this shell game with the people's money, but setting up this mutual admiration and reward "society", they will be giving second thoughts about whether someone with this kind of judgement deserves another term in Congress.

Let Freedom Ring

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