Spending, Political Speech, Clay Pigeons


The most promising thing to come out of the Abramoff scandal, besides seeing members of Congress face prison, has been the talk about reining in earmarks, those pet spending projects that enable legislative excess and abuse.

The currently-stalled House lobbying reform package has a provision intended to curb earmarks in spending bills. However, Republican spenders, like Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis, feel singled out and are pushing for "broad-based" earmark reforms that would also address pet projects tacked onto tax and policy bills. Sounds great. But spending hawks call this is a poison pill designed to sink earmark reform. "Appropriators know you lose the whole thing if you broaden it," said Jeff Flake (R-Ariz).

Whatever ultimately happens on earmarks, there will still be good reasons to hate the lobbying reform bill: Republican leaders are determined to slip in a recently-passed campaign finance provision that imposes limits on contributions to 527 groups, which represents an outrageous attack on free speech.

Meanwhile, the Senate debates a larded up $106.5 billion emergency spending bill that Bush threatens to veto (right), while Tom Coburn (R-Okla) tries to cut $2.6 billion worth of earmarks using something called a "clay pigeon strategy," described here.