Thursday, July 24, 2008

Kline announces "Stop the Pork" Initiative: Notes from Conference call

I participated in a blogger conference call this morning with Congressman John Kline regarding his initiative to repair the broken earmark system in Congress. After being in congress for awhile, Kline decided that the current system of earmarks was corrupt; there was no system of setting priorities of spending on earmarks based on merits; rather it was who the congressman knew, what stature the person held in congress; committee assignments, etc. that would dictate whether an earmark would be approved. As a result, Kline decided he would be one of only 12 that year (that list included Congresswoman Michele Bachmann) that would no longer participate in the earmark process until it was fixed. Now there are around 50 who have taken a similar position, including a number of democrats, including, surprisingly, Henry Waxman.

Kline decided to open a microsite with a petition called

An earmark is when a member of congress marks money that is specified for a specific project, that cannot be spent for anything else. Not that all projects are silly, but the current system doesn't allow earmarks to compete on their merits. It all depends on the congressman's current stature, placement on committees, etc., So Kline decided he wasn't going to participate in what he called a "broken system."

Last year there were over 30,000 requests for earmarks; 12,000 were funded.

Q: What is the long-term vision?

A: We won't ban earmarks entirely. Congress' duty is to spend money, and Congress has the constitional right to direct money. The trouble is that the current system has nothing to do with the rational setting of priorities; the plan is to stop earmarks until a rational system of priorities with earmarks can be developed.

Currently, Democrats have stated that they will not bring forth any appropriations bill until after the election, as they are apparently afraid of taxpayer backlash should any of the frivolous spending habits see the light of day in an election year.

Currently congresscritters have been talking about, among other things, raising the federal gas tax for road and bridge infrastructure, while earmarks continue unabated supporting
• olive fruit fly research in Paris, France

• the Montana Sheep Institute

• the Lobster Institute

• and even money to develop a walking tour of Boydton, Virginia

It is definitely high time to develop a system that will put a check on wasteful spending and prioritize hard-earned taxpayer dollars.

Head to and sign the petition.