Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Washington Lobbyists Hoping for Return to Business as Usual

An interesting report in The Hill suggests that defense lobbyists have concerns that negative publicity regarding earmarks will adversely impact their clients in this election year, and that any earmark reform might negatively affect them in the years to come. Anyone who understands the process will hope that it is so.

As the report points out, legislators looking to add earmarks into defense appropriations bills are not considering the needs of the Pentagon -- the Pentagon did not request these projects. Rather, they are considering the needs of firms in their respective districts. I am reminded of one of my first experiences watching C-Span back in the 1980's. Senator Phil Gramm spoke at length in opposition to an amendment that would require the Pentagon to purchase coal to be sent to installations in Europe. Gramm pointed out that not only did the Pentagon not request the coal, they were not even allowed to use it in Europe under the laws in the countries to which it would be sent. Gramm said that coal purchased and delivered in previous years was piled along the railroad tracks in the military installations.

The amendment was sponsored by Robert Byrd, whose state provided the coal and who was at the time the Chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee -- to which the other Senators looked for money for their own districts' goodies. Gramm's points were not refuted during the debate, but the amendment passed overwhelmingly.

According to the article, defense lobbyists "hope that when the November election is over they can get back more or less to business as usual." That is a reminder of the new for porkbusting vigilance.

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