Archive for the ‘earmarks’ Category

Rep. Murtha Dogged By Questions About Earmark Use, Ethics

March 24, 2009

Rep. John Murtha celebrated his 35th anniversary as a congressman by getting an early start on his next campaign, staging an invitation-only fundraising luncheon for dozens of lobbyists and defense contractors at the private Army-Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va. 

AP

But last month’s event, with tickets starting at $1,400, was missing one longtime friend: Paul Magliocchetti, the founder of a lobbying firm that over the past two decades has been one of Murtha’s biggest sources of campaign donations. 

Magliocchetti was absent because of what had happened three months earlier. At 7:30 one evening shortly after Thanksgiving, the FBI raided his lobbying firm, carting off records of the firm’s political action committee and files of some of its lobbyists. 

The work of those lobbyists took them often to Murtha’s Capitol Hill office, as well as those of fellow Democrats Peter Visclosky of Indiana, Jim Moran of Virginia and others on the defense appropriations subcommittee that Murtha chairs. The FBI says the investigation is continuing, highlighting the close tie between special-interest spending provisions known as earmarks and the raising of campaign cash. 

For Murtha, Visclosky and Moran the practice has paved the way for their congressional careers. In 2007 and 2008, the three directed $137 million to defense contractors who were paying Magliocchetti’s PMA Group to get them government business. That kind of clout put the midsized 33-lobbyist firm into the big leagues, ranking it in the top 10 in billings among Washington lobbying shops. 

At the same time, the three lawmakers received huge amounts of political donations from PMA lobbyists and their clients. Murtha has collected $2.37 million in campaign contributions from PMA’s lobbyists and the companies it has represented since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political money. Visclosky has collected $1.36 million; Moran, $997,348. 

Read the rest:
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2
009/03/23/rep-murtha-dogged-que
stions-earmark-use/

Michelle:
http://michellemalkin.com/2009
/03/24/dont-honor-john-murtha/

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Obama Rhetoric, Reality Clash, Causing Backpedaling, Messy Messages

March 21, 2009

Barack Obama’s optimistic campaign rhetoric has crashed headlong into the stark reality of governing.

In office two months, he has backpedaled on an array of issues, gingerly shifting positions as circumstances dictate while ducking for political cover to avoid undercutting his credibility and authority. That’s happened on the Iraq troop withdrawal timeline, on lobbyists in his administration and on money for lawmakers’ pet projects.

From the Associated Press

”Change doesn’t happen overnight,” Obama said at a town-hall style event in California on Thursday, seeming to acknowledge the difficulty in translating campaign pledges into actual policy. Asked by a campaign volunteer how his supporters can be most effective in helping him bring the sweeping change he promised, Obama said: ”Patience.”

The event was part of a weeklong media blitz that Obama had hoped would help sell his budget — the foundation of the health care, education and energy changes he promised in the campaign. But his budget message was overshadowed for much of the week by the public furor over $165 million in executive bonuses paid by American International Group Inc. after the insurance giant had received billions in federal bailout funds.

”There was a lot of excitement during the campaign and we were talking about the importance of bringing about change,” Obama told the volunteer. ”We are moving systematically to bring about change. But change is hard.”

It’s the same delicate dance each of his predecessors faced in moving from candidate to president, only to find he couldn’t stick exactly by his word. Each was hamstrung by his responsibility to the entire nation and to individual constituencies, changes in the foreign and domestic landscapes, and the trappings of the federal government and Washington itself.

Once in the White House, presidents quickly learn they are only one part of the political system, not in charge of it. They discover the trade-offs they must make and the parties they must please to get things done. Inevitably, they find out that it’s impossible to follow through completely on their campaign proposals.

For now at least, Obama’s deviations have served only to invite occasional cries of hypocrisy from some Republicans and infrequent grumbles of disappointment from some Democrats. He has popularity on his side, and it seems people mostly are chalking up his moves to much-needed flexibility at a difficult time.

But the shifts could take a toll over time if they become a persistent pattern and the public grows weary. His overall job-performance marks could suffer and jeopardize his likely re-election campaign in 2012. People could perceive him as a say-one-thing-do-another politician and the Democratic-controlled Congress could see him as a weak chief executive.

Obama’s moves and maneuvering for political cover run the gamut.

He spent most of the campaign promising to bring combat troops home from Iraq 16 months after taking office, though he left himself wiggle room.

After directing his commanders to map out a responsible pullout, President Obama adjusted that timeline to 19 months and said 50,000 troops, about one-third of the current force, would remain.

While campaigning, Obama frequently swiped at lobbyists, saying, ”When I am president, they won’t find a job in my White House.”

Then he took office and had to fill thousands of positions. He did allow former lobbyists to join his administration. But he imposed ethics rules barring them from dealing with matters related to their lobbying work or joining agencies that they had lobbied in the previous two years. In several cases, he has made outright exceptions.

Obama the candidate pledged to curb spending directed at lawmakers’ pet projects; they’re known in Washington as ”earmarks.” Obama the president signed an ”imperfect” $410 billion budget measure that included 8,500 earmarks.

He had little choice. The measure, a holdover from last year, was needed to keep government from shutting down. But to blunt the fallout, Obama outlined guidelines to ensure tighter restraints on the spending and made a new promise: Future earmarks won’t become law so easily.

As for politics, Obama campaigned as a new-style leader who chastised partisanship and renounced divisiveness in Washington. But as president, Obama’s White House aides wasted little time pouncing on Republicans and mocking conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh as the GOP’s leader.

On fiscal matters, Obama the candidate urged Americans to tighten their belts. Once in office and saddled with recession, though, he signed a $787 billion stimulus measure and outlined a $3.6 trillion budget plan that will plunge the nation deeper into the red. But again he paired the proposal with a new promise, to cut the deficit by more than half by the end of his first term.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/03/
21/washington/AP-Rhetoric-Reality-Analys
is.html?_r=1

41% Say U.S. Focus on Economy Raises Risk of Terrorist Attack

March 12, 2009

“He who defends everything, defends nothing,” said Frederick II (1712-1786).

President Barack Obama is defending everything: the economy, earmarks, his health care plan, environmental plan, energy plan, education reform, government spending, bigger government, the rights to free and open seas (re: China), a stronger U.N., an encircled North Korea, the Muslim world, the power of negotiations (with Syria, Iran, and others), the ramp up of troops in Afghanistan, etc.

You get the idea.

In many ways I see this president as going the right things.  But then again he is doing everything.

He is pro-immigration and today he said he’d send troops to our border with Mexico, maybe.

http://michellemalkin.com/2009/03
/12/obamas-border-talk-i-call-bull/

Michelle doubts that.

But then again: doesn’t everything depend upon the economy; followed closely by national security and stoppong terrorists?

But terrorists and terrorism are gone from our public discussion….deleted from the Obama lexicon.

Hmmm.

*****************

From Rasmussen Reports
.
Forty-one percent (41%) of U.S. voters worry that America’s preoccupation with the ongoing economic crisis will make us more vulnerable to a terrorist attack, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.

But 43% disagree and say it’s not a concern while 16% are not sure.

Forty percent (40%) also say America has more enemies than friends among the nations of the world, although 44% say we have more friends.

Voters are closely divided, too, over whether the current worldwide economic crisis is more likely to create tension between the United States and other nations or more likely to foster cooperation. Forty-four percent (44%) see more tension to come, while 43% expect greater cooperation between America and other countries.

Confidence in how America is doing in the War on Terror dropped dramatically in late February, but it is not yet clear whether the numbers are a statistical blip or a reflection of recent news developments.

Iran continues to be the country the plurality of voters (35%) expect to be the first to seriously test the Obama Administration. Nineteen percent (19%) say North Korea will be the new president’s first major threat, while 12% predict China. Eight percent (8%) say Russia will be the first serious challenger, but one-out-of-four voters (25%) are not sure which country is the greater threat.

Read the rest:
http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_con
tent/politics/general_politics2/41_say_u_s_
focus_on_economy_raises_risk_of_terrorist_attack

Obama Wasting America’s Strategic World Power; China Surges Despite Economy

March 12, 2009

While President Obama has spent $1 billion in borrowed money each hour in his first 50 days as president, and more spending is in the offing, what did America gain?

Well: Obanma may have bought himself a second term and there may be some feel good relief to people and businesses, which is real — but what did America gain?

In the time since Barack Obama took the oath of office, Russia and China have strengthened their common interests, which are rarely shared with American interests, Russia has denied America Manas air bas which is key to the War in Afghanistan, China has bought up oil and other commodities at bargain basement prices, China has sent a strong signal of intolerance toward the U.S. in an at sea incident, and North Korea, with China’s undoubted blessing, has rattled its saber….

China has used this period of economic decline to improve its future.  Almost any American will tell you our future is uncertain or certainly worse than before.

Yet the president insists there is a lot of spending yet to be done on education, health care, energy (wind), climate change and other projects.  Yet he saw no need to stop congressional pet projects (earmarks) in the omnibus spending bill he signed in solitude yesterday.

Lets just flush money and America’s future down the toilet…..

Massive debt-spending is called generational theft for a reason….

Related:
Pelosi’s Stimulus II? Lawmakers Propose No Cost, High Employment Energy Package

China Buying Oil, Uranium, Gold, Other Products At Bargain Prices

Russia, “Desperate For Cash,” Sells Oil to China In “Very Bad Deal”
Even Democrats Showing Signs Of Economic Despair, Worry at White House Inertia

Pelosi: Congress Needs to ‘Keep the Door Open’ to Second Stimulus Package

Hypocracy President Signs Omnibus, 9,000 Earmarks, Claims “Honest Budget”

March 11, 2009

“For the first time in years we produced an honest budget,” President Obama said today before signing the Omnibus spending bill containing some 8,500 earmarks.  The bill totals a stunning  $410 billion — maybe $8 billion in earmarks and waste accorning to budget watchdogs.

This follows the economic stimulus bill of some $700 billion which will soar to about $1 trillion due to interest payments on the debt.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said if the president was serious about doing away with earmarks, building an honest budget and holding down the debt he would have vetoed the Omnibus.

McCain called this action by Congress and the president “irresponsible,” “generational theft,” and “egregious.”

President Obama explained before he signed the omnibus in secret and out of the glare of media and cameras: “Earmarks might not be our highest priority….”

Well, if you lost your job or your home, that money on a study of pig smell earmark might have saved enough money to, never mind…..

McCain said Obama “either doesn’t get it or chooses not to attack the evil of earmarks…”

McCain was interviewed on Fox News.

White House Budget Chief Says President Obama Will Ignore Earmarks for At Least a Year

Related:
http://michellemalkin.com/2009/03/11/bu
siness-as-usual-obama-ok-now-lets-end-to-
the-old-way-of-doing-business/

o Leadership: It’ll Take More Than Money to Fix This Crisis

The president may not have what it takes

 Obama Doesn’t Understand What Many Americans Are Thinking

All The President’s Men: Where’s The Congressional Oversight?

Economic Situation Demads Nation, Politics With War Mindset

China Provoked Obama; Now Works To Smooth Situation: Why?

Losing Terror War? Al Qaeda, Afghanistan, Iran

Obama Policy On Gitmo, Taliban, Afghanistan, Intel: As Stupid as It Gets

Buffett: Obama not at war; has toxic message machine on economy

Voters’ Obama Folly Coming Home to Roost

****************

By PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press Writer

Acknowledging it’s an “imperfect” bill, President Barack Obama said Wednesday he will accept a $410 billion spending package that includes billions in earmarks like those he promised to curb in last year’s campaign. But he insisted the bill must signal an “end to the old way of doing business.”

The massive measure funding federal agencies through the fall contains nearly 8,000 pet projects, known as earmarks and denounced by critics as pork.

Obama defended earmarks when they’re “done right,” allowing lawmakers to direct money to worthy projects in their districts. But he said they’ve been abused, and he promised to work with Congress to curb them.

“I am signing an imperfect omnibus bill because it’s necessary for the ongoing functions of government,” Obama declared. “But I also view this as a departure point for more far-reaching change.”

In a sign of his discomfort with the bill, Obama planned to sign the bill quietly rather than in public. He declined to answer a shouted reporters’ question about why.

Running for president, Obama denounced the many pet projects as wasteful and open to abuse — and vowed to rein them in.

Explaining his decision, Obama said that future earmarks must have a “legitimate and worthy public purpose”, and the any earmark for a private company should be subject to competitive bidding rules. Plus he said he’ll “work with Congress” to eliminate any the administration objects to.

But he acknowledged that earmarks have bred “cynicism”, and he declared, “This piece of legislation must mark an end to the old way of doing business.”

White House officials in recent weeks have dismissed criticism of the earmarks in the bill, saying the legislation was a remnant of last year and that the president planned to turn his attention to future spending instead of looking backward.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama wouldn’t be the first president to sign legislation that he viewed as less than ideal. Asked whether Obama had second thoughts about signing the bill, Gibbs’ reply was curt: “No.”

Obama’s modest set of reforms builds upon changes initiated by Republicans in 2006 and strengthened by Democrats two years ago. Most importantly, every earmark and its sponsor must be made public.

In new steps — outlined in concert with House Democratic leaders Wednesday morning — the House Appropriations Committee will submit every earmark to the appropriate executive branch agency for a review. And any earmark designed to go to for-profit companies would have to be awarded through a competitive bidding process.

But perhaps the most tangible change may be Obama’s promise to resurrect the long-defunct process by which the president proposes to cut spending from bills that he has signed into law.

Under this so-called rescissions process, the White House sends Congress a roster of cuts for its consideration. Congress is free to ignore the cuts, but both Obama and senior members like Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., say they want to use it to clean out bad earmarks that make it through the process.

But Obama declined to endorse a stronger process advocated by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and others, that would have required Congress to vote on a presidential rescission earmark package. Senior Democrats dislike the idea even though many of them backed it in the early-to-mid 1990s.

During his presidential campaign, Obama promised to force Congress to curb its pork-barrel-spending ways. Yet the bill sent from the Democratic-controlled Congress to the White House on Tuesday contained 7,991 earmarks totaling $5.5 billion, according to calculations by the Republican staff of the House Appropriations Committee.

The 1,132-page bill has an extraordinary reach, wrapping together nine spending bills to fund the annual operating budgets of every Cabinet department except Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs. Among the many earmarks are $485,000 for a boarding school for at-risk native students in western Alaska and $1.2 million for Helen Keller International so the nonprofit can provide eyeglasses to students with poor vision.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/2009
0311/ap_on_go_pr_wh/obama_spending

No Leadership: It’ll Take More Than Money to Fix This Crisis

March 11, 2009

Browsing through the Style section of yesterday’s Post, I happened upon an article about new Washington “power couples” that made reference to one Jeremy Bernard, a Los Angeles fundraiser for President Obama who recently landed the plum job as White House liaison to the National Endowment for the Humanities.

By Steven Pearlstein
The Washington Post

White House liaison to the National Endowment for the Humanities?

Let’s get this straight: We’re up to our necks in the worst global economic crisis since the 1930s, the government is putting trillions of dollars of borrowed money on the line to rescue the financial system and stimulate the economy, tens of trillions of dollars in paper wealth has vaporized, millions of Americans are losing their homes and their jobs, nearly all the top jobs at the Treasury Department are vacant, yet somehow the White House has found the time and the money to hire a liaison to the National Endowment for the Humanities!
It’s a small point, I realize, and I mean no disrespect either to Mr. Bernard or the humanities. But it highlights what seems to be a glaring problem: There is still way too much business as usual going on in Washington, on Wall Street and in the media.

Not so on Main Street. All indications are that in response to the crisis, consumers have embraced a new frugality, paring debt and cutting consumption they know had become excessive. Businesses are moving to cut back on dividends and stock buybacks they can no longer afford, trim frills and reduce prices and capacity to post-bubble realities.

Contrast that with the approach to the crisis taken by members of Congress, who as far as I can tell, have changed nothing about how they go about their duties. Same leisurely three-day work week. Same bloated budgets for staff and security. Same unwieldy committees holding the same meaningless hearings. Same partisan posturing and gamesmanship. Same willingness to put narrow special or parochial interests over the national interest.

Can you imagine a better way to undercut public support for fiscal stimulus and deficit spending than to report out an omnibus spending bill with nearly 9,000 earmarks totaling $8 billion? But, of course, that is just what the Democratic Congress has done. Americans don’t need to be lectured by the House speaker and the Senate majority leader on the spending prerogatives of Congress. What they need are leaders who can demonstrate, in ways symbolic as well as substantive, that they know the difference between spending that is crucial to the country in times of crisis and spending that is not.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/
content/article/2009/03/10/AR200903
1003625.html?hpid=topnews

We are told the president signed the omnibus spending bill with nearly 9,000 earmarks totaling $8 billion — in secret….

White House Budget Chief Says President Obama Will Ignore Earmarks for At Least a Year

Related:
The president may not have what it takes

All The President’s Men: Where’s The Congressional Oversight?

Economic Situation Demads Nation, Politics With War Mindset

 Obama Doesn’t Understand What Many Americans Are Thinking

China Provoked Obama; Now Works To Smooth Situation: Why?

Losing Terror War? Al Qaeda, Afghanistan, Iran

Obama Policy On Gitmo, Taliban, Afghanistan, Intel: As Stupid as It Gets

Buffett: Obama not at war; has toxic message machine on economy

The president may not have what it takes

March 11, 2009

Obama still has the approval of the people, but the establishment is beginning to mumble that the president may not have what it takes.

by Howard Fineman
Newsweek

Surfer that he is, President Obama should know a riptide when he’s in one. The center usually is the safest, most productive place in politics, but perhaps not now, not in a once-in-a-century economic crisis.

Swimming in the middle, he’s denounced as a socialist by conservatives, criticized as a polite accommodationist by government-is-the-answer liberals, and increasingly, dismissed as being in over his head by technocrats.

Luckily for Obama, the public still likes and trusts him, at least judging by the latest polls, including NEWSWEEK‘s. But, in ways both large and small, what’s left of the American establishment is taking his measure and, with surprising swiftness, they are finding him lacking.

They have some reasons to be concerned. I trace them to a central trait of the president’s character: he’s not really an in-your-face guy. By recent standards—and that includes Bill Clinton as well as George Bush—Obama for the most part is seeking to govern from the left, looking to solidify and rely on his own party more than woo Republicans. And yet he is by temperament judicious, even judicial. He’d have made a fine judge. But we don’t need a judge. We need a blunt-spoken coach.

Obama may be mistaking motion for progress, calling signals for a game plan. A busy, industrious overachiever, he likes to check off boxes on a long to-do list. A genial, amenable guy, he likes to appeal to every constituency, or at least not write off any. A beau ideal of Harvard Law, he can’t wait to tackle extra-credit answers on the exam.

But there is only one question on this great test of American fate: can he lead us away from plunging into another Depression?

If the establishment still has power, it is a three-sided force, churning from inside the Beltway, from Manhattan-based media and ….

Read the rest:
http://www.newsweek.com/id/1
88565/output/print

Related:
All The President’s Men: Where’s The Congressional Oversight?

Economic Situation Demads Nation, Politics With War Mindset

China Provoked Obama; Now Works To Smooth Situation: Why?

Losing Terror War? Al Qaeda, Afghanistan, Iran

Obama Policy On Gitmo, Taliban, Afghanistan, Intel: As Stupid as It Gets

Buffett: Obama not at war; has toxic message machine on economy

No Leadership: It’ll Take More Than Money to Fix This Crisis

Economic Situation Demands Nation, Politics With War Mindset

March 11, 2009

Have you grown tired of sophomoric and moronic politics as usual?  Earmarks without reason and without end?  The economy is in a shambles and we are at a point not unlike December 8, 1941.  We are in an economic war — a war for America and Americans.  We are also in a shooting and death war in Iraq, Afghanistan and, without too much provocation, more real combat could be upon us at a moments notice: just pay attention to North Korea, Iran, China, Russia and others….

We Americans deserve more and we need better from our leaders….

Now is the time to write or call your elected representatives….

*****************

Economically, this is the big one. This is August 1914. This is the morning after Pearl Harbor. This is 9/12. Yet, in too many ways, we seem to be playing politics as usual.

By Tom Friedman
The New York Times

Link:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/1
1/opinion/11friedman.html?_r=1

*****************

Related:
Obama’s clumsy, smirky staff and unelected appointees are sinking him
.
China Provoked Obama; Now Works To Smooth Situation: Why?

Losing Terror War? Al Qaeda, Afghanistan, Iran

Obama Policy On Gitmo, Taliban, Afghanistan, Intel: As Stupid as It Gets

Buffett: Obama not at war; has toxic message machine on economy

 White House Budget Chief Says President Obama Will Ignore Earmarks for At Least a Year

Era of Obama, American Weakness Emboldens Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Terrorists

 Can Democracy Fail With Obama’s Socialist Help?

Buffett: Obama not at war; has toxic message machine on economy

March 10, 2009

 I was going to mention to …. that you’ve heard this comment recently from some Democrats recently that a `crisis is a terrible thing to waste.’ …. Now, just rephrase that and since it’s, in my view, it’s an economic war, and–I don’t think anybody on December 7th would have said a `war is a terrible thing to waste, and therefore we’re going to try and ram through a whole bunch of things and–but we expect to–expect the other party to unite behind us on the–on the big problem.’ It’s just a mistake, I think, when you’ve got one overriding objective, to try and muddle it up with a bunch of other things…..if you’re in a war, and we really are on an economic war, there’s a obligation to the majority to behave in ways that don’t go around inflaming the minority. If on December 8th when–maybe it’s December 7th, when Roosevelt convened Congress to have a vote on the war, he didn’t say, `I’m throwing in about 10 of my pet projects,’ and you didn’t have congress people putting on 8,000 earmarks onto the declaration of war in 1941.

See:
http://www.swamppolitics.com/news/politi
cs/blog/2009/03/buffett_hits_obama_co
ngress_on.html

********************

When billionaire investor Warren Buffett says President Barack Obama’s economic message is muddled and undermining public confidence, it’s worth listening.

Halfway through his first 100 days in office, ace communicator Obama has struggled to find the right tone in talking about the economy, twinning bleak warnings with optimism about the future.

By Steve Holland
Reuters

 An outside view of the New York Stock Exchange on Wall street. ...

On the campaign trail, Obama said a president must be able to do more than one thing at a time, and his White House has been doing that.

He and his aides have interspliced comments about the economy while launching theme-of-the-day initiatives on healthcare, stem cell research and on Tuesday, education.

Last week the White House spent some time accusing conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh of being leader of the Republican Party.

But Obama, together with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, White House economic guru Lawrence Summers and others have so far failed to explain how they plan to rescue American banks, some of which are teetering on the brink of collapse.

There is talk of “stress tests” for troubled banks, or nationalizing them or letting some fail — but no clear plan.

Buffett, an informal Obama adviser considered a financial seer on Wall Street, told CNBC on Monday the message has to be “very, very clear as to what government will be doing.”

“And I think we’ve had, and it’s the nature of the political process somewhat, but we’ve had muddled messages and the American public does not know. They feel they don’t know what’s going on, and their reaction then is to absolutely pull back,” he said.

At the White House, spokesman Robert Gibbs reacted defensively, saying Obama has only been in office seven weeks and it should be no surprise that “all of the problems that took many years to take hold haven’t necessarily been solved.”

Read the rest:
http://www.reuters.com/article/new
sOne/idUSTRE5294HH20090310

In this May 21, 2008 file photo, U.S. billionaire investor Warren ...
In this May 21, 2008 file photo, U.S. billionaire investor Warren Buffett speaks during a news conference in Madrid. Buffett says the economic turmoil that contributed to a 62 percent profit drop last year at the holding company he controls is certain to continue in 2009, but the revered investor remains optimistic.(AP Photo/Paul White, File)

Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag arrives ...
“Beware of geeks bearing models,” said Warren Buffett; which could be worrisome to people.  Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag arrives to deliver testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 4, 2009.REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES)