OMT One Man's Trash...from Norman Leahy

Sunday, July 09, 2006 :::

It's not pork. It's "operating in confidence."

Mindful, perhaps, of their timid reporting on pork in the Virginia budget, the TD today runs Peter Hardin's piece on pork the congressional delegation delivers to the folks back home. Along the way, readers discover a number of interesting things, not the least of which are the stunning rationalizations used to justify the spending, including gems like these:

On a $250,000 earmark for Richmond's Science Museum:

But Virginia Rep. Robert C. Scott jumped to defend the earmark. Scott, D-3rd, said the museum monitors the health of the Occoquan and Potomac rivers, which flow into the Chesapeake Bay, and it helps teach science to kids.

Scott lauded those missions as a national pri- ority, and he said "this research will go a long way in helping to preserve the Chesapeake Bay." Scott is a co-chairman of the Congressional Chesapeake Bay Task Force.

As a member of and contributor to the Science Museum, I can attest to the value of its efforts to make science fun and interesting to kids (of all ages). But I was unaware of its Bay watershed monitoring efforts -- which don't seem to make it into member communications. Or fundraising appeals. If they are so vital, as Scott says, perhaps they should.

On why earmarks are usually inserted anonymously into budget bills, Sen. Warner's office says:

"It becomes difficult for us to operate in the type of confidence we need with those who request projects of us, if we begin to make those actual request letters public," said John Ullyot, a spokesman for Sen. John W. Warner, R-Va.

Perhaps it would. But that's also the point. The more transparent the budget process, the fewer opportunities there are for mischief. And outright waste. Like this:

For example, Allen did not announce a $300,000 earmark for the performing-arts center in Richmond after it was included in a broad spending bill in December, although he listed other Virginia projects. The center has been controversial.

"We are proud of it" and did not try to hide the earmark, Allen spokesman Reid said. He explained that aides who scrambled to write the announcement apparently were unaware of the earmark.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why George Allen would want to give $300,000 to this project -- a project that has already frittered away millions of dollars in private and public funds with nothing to show for it aside from a shuttered Carpenter Center, a massive vacant lot downtown, and a trail of broken promises and tarnished reputations. Utterly, completely astounding.

There's more to the piece, of course. And it should be noted that while the dollar amounts discussed are small relative to the budget leviathan, they are symptoms of a larger problem that crosses party lines and all levels of government: The idea that the handling of public money is not a trust, but a form of therapy.

::: posted by Norman Leahy at 7/09/2006 1 comments


"You know what the fellow said: In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they also produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love -- they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." -- Orson Welles, The Third Man

"The graveyards are full of indespensable men" -- Charles de Gaulle

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