The New York Times notes that the spending bill vetoed by President Bush today included a $130,000 earmark for the National First Ladies' Library in Canton, Ohio, sponsored by Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio). Also known as the Mary A. Regula Library, the institution was founded by Rep. Regula's wife and is run by his daughter. "I don't have one earmark in any bill that I am not prepared to go to the mat on and defend to the taxpayer," Regula tells the Times, explaining that the library "tells the story of first ladies and the contributions they have made to the nation." He adds that "earmarks are not an abuse" unless they involve a quid pro quo. If spending $130,000 in taxpayers' money on a present for your wife is not an abuse, I'm not sure what is.
Maybe spending $2 million in taxpayers' money on a present for yourself. The same bill included a $2 million earmark sponsored by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) to establish the self-aggrandizing Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College:
Representative John Campbell, Republican of California, said Mr. Rangel should be ashamed of using tax dollars to build "a monument to himself."
But Mr. Rangel, who took office in 1971, brushed aside the criticism. "I would have a problem if you did it," he told Mr. Campbell, "because I don't think that you've been around long enough to inspire a building like this."
The fact that such earmarks are small beans in the context of the federal budget makes them all the more contemptible. Given the sums involved, why can't the friends of Mary Regula and Charlie Rangel collect whatever money is needed for these august institutions through private, voluntary contributions? The fact that Reps. Regula and Rangel not only prefer to steal it but are positively proud of doing so speaks volumes about the mentality of the people who wield the power of your purse.