Thursday, December 09, 2010

Earmarks and Congressional Clout

Steve Benen posted a discussion of earmarks, on which I commented.  David Farenthold had an article in the Post on the lame duck House members, who have now moved out of their fancy offices into temporary offices in the basement until the House adjourns.  I see these two paragraphs as relating to earmarks:
The departing members also remembered, fondly, their power to intercede for constituents. As lowly as a freshman is on Capitol Hill, he is a giant to a bureaucrat.
"I was surprised by the extent of power that I had," said Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao (R-La.). Cao recalled his ability to make Federal Emergency Management Agency officials help his constituents still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. "I can go into a federal agency, and people would jump."
The point being, even if earmarks are banned, a bureaucrat is still going to jump when a member of Congress contacts her. So my fear is we'll replace earmarks which are in writing and fairly transparent with less transparent meetings and letters, all of which arrive at understandings, a wink and a nod as it were. Things might be helped if Congress agreed to post all correspondence with the bureaucracy and list all meetings on their web sites.

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