Congressional earmarks have been one of the primary targets of the tea party, representing the nexus of the movement’s arch foes — government spending and Washington influence peddling. If Republicans “go back to their old earmarking ways it could be a VERY short majority,” the president of the hard-right Citizens Against Government Waste warned. Looking to capitalize on the tea party, Republican leaders endorsed bans on earmarking as a way to show they were different from their spendthrift predecessors in previous Congresses. And last month, House Republicans unanimously extended an internal moratorium on earmarks.
But it appears that tea party’s self-proclaimed representatives in Washington haven’t been putting their money where their mouths are. Hotline On Call reports today that members of House Tea Party Caucus, founded by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) to “represent the views of our constituents,” requested over $1 billion in earmarks during the last fiscal year:
According to a Hotline review of records compiled by Citizens Against Government Waste, the 52 members of the caucus, which pledges to cut spending and reduce the size of government, requested a total of 764 earmarks valued at $1,049,783,150 during Fiscal Year 2010, the last year for which records are available.
Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), for one, attached his name to 69 earmarks in the last fiscal year, for a total of $78,263,000. The 41 earmarks Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) requested were worth $65,395,000. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) wanted $63,400,000 for 39 special projects, and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) wanted $93,980,000 set aside for 47 projects.
When asked to explain how they could join a caucus dedicated to fighting government spending and yet request millions in pork projects, tea party lawmakers told the Hotline that they stopped requesting new earmarks after joining the group.
But this is hardly the first indication that Republicans may not be as genuine in their commitment to fighting pork as they would like tea party activists to believe. Last month, as the AP reported that “[o]nly three days after GOP senators and senators-elect renounced earmarks, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, the No. 2 Senate Republican, got himself a whopping $200 million to settle an Arizona Indian tribe’s water rights claim against the government.” An earmark ban was also conspicuously absent from House Republicans’ Pledge to American governing agenda, causing uproar among activists.
Tea party favorite Sen.-elect Rand Paul (R-KY) highlights this disparity between rhetoric and action well. In March, his website told supporters that “a ban on wasteful earmark spending in Washington D.C. [is] one of the key points of his campaign.” But after winning the election, Paul told the Wall Street Journal that he “will fight for Kentucky’s share of earmarks and federal pork,” suggesting it would be “crazy” not to.