Government Spending

The Favor Factory

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Last month, the Seattle Times assembled a handy database breaking down the earmarks attached to the 2008 defense appropriations bill.  The paper looked at how many of the bill's earmarks went to each congressional district and, in turn, how much money in campaign contributions the recipients of those earmarks have given to the congressmen who requested them.

For example, my congressman, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) larded the 2008 defense bill with $40.6 million in earmarks.  Over the last five years, the recipients of those earmarks have given Moran more than $890,000 in campaign contributions.  Moran was second only to Rep John Murtha (D-Pa.) in raking in contributions from recipients of his sponsored earmarks—Murtha reaped $1.6 million in contributions from the whopping $126 million he put in the bill.

Only about 10 percent of Congress requested no earmarks at all.

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  1. And 0% of corrupt CEOs of failing comapanies got no exhorbitant bonuses. Confirmation fucking bias is the libertarian modus operandi.

  2. Will you assfucks stop putting up moronic posts in my name?

  3. The earmark thing makes for great press, and some like Glenn Reynolds and Congressman Flake are milking it for all it’s worth, but it misses the point. The defense budget is anywhere from 550 to 615 billion, depending on how you count it. If every one of the 535 congresscriters appropriated 41 million, you’re only looking at a little under 22 billion – the rounding error in the defense budget these days.

    All the earmark does is route around the usual competative bid process – which is a problem, but a relatively minor one all things considered, since the competative bid process is somewhat off the rails these days as well. In any case, most of this money would be spent even if there were no earmarks – to make substantive changes in defense spending, the attack must be much deeper.

    And I’m no supporter of Moran (my hometown congressman as well), but the $890k figure is a little misleading. It is from *all* compaines that gave earmarks to *anyone*, not just him (for instance GE gave him 13K but does not have a earmark in his district). Also, fwiw, the traditional defense contractor spending has long been on ‘beltway bandits’ that are in the Washington DC metro area – as that’s where the Pentagon is. The earmark process has actually served to ‘spread the wealth’ by putting various contracts in West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania, etc.

    I will say, the first earmark has almost a Platonic perfection. The federal government giving money to a state supported university for http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/favorfactory/favorfactory_2008/earmark.php?id=4015“> emergency management consulting.

  4. Donate now! Balko and his cronies could never make it a market that rewards actual value produced.

  5. Wow, that’s a lot of free speech.

  6. You Urkobold fucks better quit posting under my name. I’ll fucking sue you and you’ll have to move out of your moms’ basement and into a cardboard box.

    You assmonnkeys will always be insignificant. Dealt with it.

  7. I’ll fucking call the internet police, and they will send the partyvan!

  8. Eddddddddward. Eddddddddward. Eddddddward. Eddddddddward.

    Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) larded the 2008 defense bill with $40.6 million in earmarks.

    Get a brain, Moran!

  9. I just read the article about the 6.5 million dollar boat that has never been in the water.

    Three owners, three large re-election contributions, 6 million in cheddar.

    That’s the best business plan ever. Private sales are for suckers.

  10. Are we (“You Urkobold fucks”) posting as Lefiti? I haven’t and don’t plan to. Though I can’t speak for my other compatriots.

  11. Well, this is interesting. Connie Mack is on the list. I thought that was a mistake, but it’s Connie Mack’s son (or great-grandson, depending on your Connie Mack of choice). He’s married to Mary Bono (who is now Mary Bono Mack), who is, yes, Sonny Bono’s widow and a Representative from California. Huh.

  12. I don’t spoof people, with the rare exception of political celebrities (I don’t think anyone believes Hillary is posting here). There are much better ways to deal with trolls. As soon as I can come up with a good one on Lefiti, I’ll post it.

  13. Also: Edddddward. Edddddward.

  14. 10% is actually surprisingly high. They could make a huge dent in earmarking by targeting the top 10% of earmarkers and pledging to vote against any bill in which any of those people got an earmark. If putting in earmarks lost more votes to bills than it got, the process would stop. Of course, they couldn’t target all 90% at once, but there would be a lot of incentive not to be the worst, which should at least push down earmarking totals a lot. Plus, a lot of states take big hits from the process, particularly states like California with low per capita representation, so if it started working, more folks might jump on the bandwagon.

  15. Shut the fuck up cum sticks. Why don’t you go cry to mommy, shit-scarfers. Mess with me some more and you will get fucked, fools!

  16. Wow 10%. Thats 10% more than I expected.

  17. “joe | November 17, 2008, 6:53pm | #
    Wow, that’s a lot of free speech.”

    What? That is borderline Guy Montag-esque non=-equitur. What are you talking about?

  18. Non-sequitur.

  19. “(I don’t think anyone believes Hillary is posting here)”

    With the possible exception of Lefiti.

  20. BDB: I think Joe was trying to make a point about how us Libertarians think that campaign contributions are free speech, rather than expensive corruption.

  21. Yeah. Well, joe, the biggest difference is campaign contributions are freely given while tax money is not.

  22. This is confusing, who is the real Lefiti? I thought of a way to figure it out. There is an orginazition (whom shall remain nameless) that after a hurricane in a certain southern state sent people to a location where they could be taken care of. After five days, a member of ‘said orginazation’ was watching CNN and discovered that they had not sent any water to the people rescued from the hurricane. The real Lefiti is the one thinks ‘said orginization’ should be in charge of our healthcare.

  23. I got to admit, one of those was me.

    But which one (WHOOOOooooOOOO)

  24. “Lefiti | November 17, 2008, 7:03pm | #
    I’ll fucking call the internet police, and they will send the partyvan!”

    If that was one of yours, Ramsey, my hats off to you!

  25. Well, joe, the biggest difference is campaign contributions are freely given while tax money is not.

    Then I guess it’s a good thing campaign contributions don’t ever result in tax money being spent.

  26. Yeah, I’ve just been fooling you guys. I’m really a Limbaugh Conservative (isn’t that guy great?) named Hamus, and I jack my neighbor’s wifi because my mom won’t let me have Internet in the house.

    Thanks for the laughs!

  27. I find a critique of large-scale campaign contributions by an Obama supporter ironic somehow.

  28. “Lefiti | November 17, 2008, 8:39pm | #
    Yeah, I’ve just been fooling you guys. I’m really a Limbaugh Conservative (isn’t that guy great?) named Hamus, and I jack my neighbor’s wifi because my mom won’t let me have Internet in the house.

    Thanks for the laughs!”

    Ok, the person who did that better own up. That is fucking funny.

  29. Is it bad that i am filled with glee now whenever i see “Lefiti” in the tagline, rather than annoyance and a desire to break the monitor?

  30. PL, I’ve given you Urkobold cockgobblers ample time to take down my quotes, and they’re still up. This isn’t a fucking joke: take down the quotes or there will be repercussions for your pitiful little website. This is your last warning.

  31. Lefiti | November 18, 2008, 12:05am | #
    PL, I’ve given you Urkobold cockgobblers ample time to take down my quotes, and they’re still up. This isn’t a fucking joke: take down the quotes or there will be repercussions for your pitiful little website. This is your last warning.

    Methinks that when you are posting pseudonymously, your level of protection against false but clearly satirical attribution is approximately bupkis.

    In other words: eat a dick. The tutorial: (1) open mouth. (2) insert dick. (3) chew. (4) swallow.

    BTW, whoever else is posting as Lefiti is fucking brilliant. I shall have to remember this for the future as a strategy for dealing with trolls.

  32. I’ll tell my mom! Seriously, I will!

  33. Yeah, like I have nothing better to do with my time than waste it suing you losertarians. I bet you’d like being sued, because it would mean someone’s actually paying attention to you losers. You guys are so desperate to be noticed that I bet you offer to take a dirty rodriguez from random men.

    At least I have a life. I get laid more every night than you cum garglers do in a lifetime.

    Nobody cares about you… Nobody. if you guys were to die, noone would notice. Hamsterdance.com is a better source of news. Hell, I learn more from a minute there than an hour on reason.

    You mornos should be thanking me – if it weren’t for me, you guys would have nothing to do but try to give head to chickens. BTW how’s that project coming along P.L.? Have you found their little Mr. Happies yet? Keep looking. I’m sure you’ll find it.

  34. joe,

    Then I guess it’s a good thing campaign contributions don’t ever result in tax money being spent.

    That is in fact the nature of the system and will *always* be the nature of the system and it is one of the more important reasons why libertarians argue that government should be decreased in size and scope. In other words, and I’m not the first person to argue this, getting access to public funds is like a lottery. So yeah, I completely agree with your observation.

  35. I don’t think joe is so naive as to believe that if contributions were limited that these congressmen would be more likely to direct funds as dictated by the public good.

    I’m sure that he would recognize that their penchant for using the public purse to benefit favored interests would independent of the way people give them money.

    Of course, I wonder if that is the case, why even bother have limitations on campaign finance? Who cares if the funds go to the politician’s brother in law rather than his biggest donor?

  36. Incidentally, I propose a variant of a Turing test aimed at trolls.

    If posts from a troll cannot be reliably identified when mixed with those of imitators, then the troll is not very smart or original.

    It seems a lot less profound when I type it out…

    However, I think we should call it the Lefiti test. As in, “Lefiti fails the Lefiti test.”

  37. Lefiti | November 17, 2008, 6:56pm | #
    You Urkobold fucks better quit posting under my name. I’ll fucking sue you and you’ll have to move out of your moms’ basement and into a cardboard box.

    You assmonnkeys will always be insignificant. Dealt with it.

    But Edweirdoooo, grandmama just got a new fridge and I already AM in that box. I’ve painted a new flower pot on it, and I’ll hang some drapes, and the Noam Chomsky Blow Up Doll is coming over later for tea.

  38. Take down the quotes, turd munchers. I suggest you Urkobolds find an attorney to book some time with if you don’t. Buttmunches.

  39. Stop spoofing me, pissholes!

  40. BDB | November 17, 2008, 8:40pm | #

    I find a critique of large-scale campaign contributions by an Obama supporter ironic somehow.

    Why? Obama’s campaign funding is most notable for its unheard-of reliance on small-scale campaign contributions.

    Seward,

    That is in fact the nature of the system and will *always* be the nature of the system and it is one of the more important reasons why libertarians argue that government should be decreased in size and scope.

    What makes you think that the people now bribing Congressmen to give them goodies won’t
    just bribe them to expand the government to give them goodies? It isn’t rules that keep the powerful to exploiting their power to get more goodies – if they’re powerful, they can always get the rules changed. It’s pushback.

    tarran,

    tarran | November 18, 2008, 8:03am | #

    I don’t think joe is so naive as to believe that if contributions were limited that these congressmen would be more likely to direct funds as dictated by the public good.

    I’m sure that he would recognize that their penchant for using the public purse to benefit favored interests would independent of the way people give them money.

    Why didn’t you direct this towards Balko for writing this post? He pretty clearly seems to be “naive” enough to think that campaign donations turn the budget process into – what’s it called again? Oh, yeah, “The Favor Factory.”

    And he seems to have the data to back it up.

  41. Seriously, tarran, are you actually calling me “naive” for believing that Congressmen, like everyone else, act in their material self-interest?

    I mean, that’s crazy talk!

  42. Only two congressmen named Russ and neither puts in earmarks.

    The honesty goes in after the name goes on. Or something.

  43. “Why? Obama’s campaign funding is most notable for its unheard-of reliance on small-scale campaign contributions.”

    Contributors that want giveaways to liberal interests.

  44. I wonder, BDB, how much influence do you think my twenty five bucks is going to get me in the establishment of the Obama administration’s budgetary priorities?

  45. “I wonder, BDB, how much influence do you think my twenty five bucks is going to get me in the establishment of the Obama administration’s budgetary priorities?”

    If there are 50,000 joes with liberal views who all contribute 25 bucks, probably a lot. After all if lets down the MoveOn/Kos crowd by governing like a centrist, he isn’t going to get their thousands of small contributions next time, is he?

  46. “Liberal views” mean a lot of things. They don’t mean the sort of thing one finds in the linked data – Congressmen X got $Y00,000 from some group, and sponsored earmarks sending that particular organization $Z,000,000 in funding.

    It would mean a broad orientation towards a certain political philosophy which is widely endorsed by the President’s supporters.

  47. For instance, would 50,000 liberal donors contributing $25 each translate into a $100 earmark for 50,000 different pet causes, the way the big donations from particular groups show up in the linked data?

  48. “joe | November 18, 2008, 11:31am | #
    For instance, would 50,000 liberal donors contributing $25 each translate into a $100 earmark for 50,000 different pet causes, the way the big donations from particular groups show up in the linked data?”

    No, it would be more broad and indirect than that but it is still a kind of influence peddling. For example, if Obama got X thousands of contributions from people on the MoveOn.org list, and MoveOn.org says it wants card check, Obama better damn well try to get card check or risk losing said contributors in 2012.

    Had he taken the federal matching funds, he would have much more room to move to the center because he wouldn’t be as tied to a liberal donor base.

  49. OTOH, since the Obama team can see which states/areas of the country have given the most in small contributions, it will be interesting to see if these areas get goodies given out them.

  50. Who the fuck knows who gave to Obama. He refuses to disclose names. The stories about people’s credit cards being charged without their knowledge were rampant. And it is nobody’s guess how many Chinese nationals contributed at the Clintons behest.

  51. BDB,

    No, it would be more broad and indirect than that but it is still a kind of influence peddling.

    Setting aside the loaded term “influence peddling,” what you describe is a much better system of governance.

    Card check is an actual policy, with an actual poitical constituency that draws its power from popular appeal, and dispenses it benefits broadly. Compare this to a check being cut from the federal treasury to some corporation that makes a product.

    The way you’re using the term “influence peddling,” it could apply just as easily to votes as to donations. Is $25 from a MoveOn member really more important than a vote from that member? I’ll tell you that a couple hundred grand from some defense contractor is a lot more important than the votes of its boardmembers.

    Who the fuck knows who gave to Obama. He refuses to disclose names. The stories about people’s credit cards being charged without their knowledge were rampant. And it is nobody’s guess how many Chinese nationals contributed at the Clintons behest.

    Tee hee. I was worried that this high-grade Obamanoia would disappear once the election happened.

    Why won’t he release the REAL birth certificates of his donors?

    “stories were rampant” Well, that’s good enough for me – stories being rampant on VDARE and TownHall and RedState about a humongous conspiracy involving the Democrats’ election. I WANT to believe.

  52. joe,

    What makes you think that the people now bribing Congressmen to give them goodies won’t
    just bribe them to expand the government to give them goodies?

    Well, that is an empirical question isn’t it? Was most legislation we see today created via “bribery,” (I don’t think of the lottery aspect of the issue as bribery, BTW – public funding is just a zero sum game), or out of some other concern?

    It isn’t rules that keep the powerful to exploiting their power to get more goodies – if they’re powerful, they can always get the rules changed. It’s pushback.

    If there are no rules there is nothing to pushback with.

    BDB,

    I would note that small donors are not the only source of contributions to the Obama campaign. The last I read they represent only a little over half of the campaign contributions to that campaign.

  53. joe,

    I would also note that you are I believe the proponent of a certain set of rules generally referred to by the acronym CFR. I don’t believe those rules (whatever way they are drawn up) are in anyway effective, but you too believe in rules apparently, as does everyone else. Now I’m not going to get into a chicken and egg debate, but rules are extremely important for actualizing human society.

  54. Well, that is an empirical question isn’t it?

    Yes, it is, Seward. Over a century ago, we had a government that was much smaller than it is today, and rules that many thought would keep it that way – and a plutocratic class that was able to get whatever the hell they wanted anyway. And then, the government got bigger.

    I don’t believe in magical government de-growifying machines. The government will grow if the powers that be want it to grow. There is some pretty solid empirical evidence for this proposition.

    If there are no rules there is nothing to pushback with. Yes, there is. There is the power of competing, or at least different, groups, which can take the form of enforcing those rules.

    I would note that small donors are not the only source of contributions to the Obama campaign. But they represent a larger part of those contributions than any previous candidate – which is why it is so odd to see BDB single out “Obama supporters” as people uniquely ill-suited to denounce the power of big donors.

    Now I’m not going to get into a chicken and egg debate, but rules are extremely important for actualizing human society.

    I’m making a “necessary but not sufficient” argument. It doesn’t matter how good any rules are, if the people who wish to break or void them are unmet by an effective opposition.

  55. joe,

    …and a plutocratic class that was able to get whatever the hell they wanted anyway.

    And they get away even more with an enlarged state. Smith made this very point in 1776 in The Wealth of Nations. Liberals have long recognized that the wealthy are just as willing as any other segment of society to use government to their own benefit, which is one of the reasons why liberals see the growth of government in size and scope as problematic. There are other reasons of course – one allied to this is the general fear of concentrations of power.

    And then, the government got bigger.

    Basically it got bigger at the behest of producers who were trying to reduce the competitive nature of more open markets. Indeed, that is exactly why the Sherman Anti-Trust Act came into being – consumers were paying lower and lower prices on goods across the board, however, certain sets of producers were clamoring to stop such against “monopolistic” competition.

    The government will grow if the powers that be want it to grow. There is some pretty solid empirical evidence for this proposition.

    If that is the case then an ineffecient public lottery will continue. If the government is passing out presents then people will compete for them, and that competition leads to all the problems progressives complain about.

    Yes, there is. There is the power of competing, or at least different, groups, which can take the form of enforcing those rules.

    The rules aren’t important yet enforcing them is? What?

    But they represent a larger part of those contributions than any previous candidate…

    Since government funding is based in large part on the notion of small groups gaining large benefits from larger groups who undertake small costs I’m not quite sure why that matters. Then again, since government funding is mostly under the purview of the Congress, that should be the primary locus of analysis, not the Obama campaign.

    I’m making a “necessary but not sufficient” argument. It doesn’t matter how good any rules are, if the people who wish to break or void them are unmet by an effective opposition.

    And it doesn’t matter presumably how “good” the people are if the rules suck. So both are presumably necessary.

  56. I used to get all het up about earmarks, but let’s be blunt – like NPR, they’re a red-meat budget triviality dangled in front of people to make them slaver and ignore the other 99% of the money government spends.

  57. That jackass Moran can’t even do earmarks/pork right. I’ve lived in his district for the better part of 14 years and can’t recall one major federally funded public works project that whole time.

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