The new Democratic Congress passed a major spending bill earlier this year that it promoted as being stripped of all earmarks and a strike against pork-barrel spending. But even as the bill passed, a joint investigation by CIR and the Los Angeles Times reveals today, top Democrats and members of both parties deluged government agencies with special requests to fund pet projects. CIR obtained congressional correspondence under the Freedom of Information Act showing 122 spending requests from 52 senators and 205 representatives in the wake of that “earmark-free” bill, including multiple letters from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
>> Read the full Los Angeles Times story by CIR's Will Evans and the Times' Richard Simon.
Below, read what four senators said about the 2007 spending bill in public compared to what they wrote to government agencies in private.
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
Publicly said: "Democrats have now accomplished more for fiscal responsibility in six weeks than Republicans managed to achieve in six years. This new Continuing Resolution puts benefits for our nation's veterans and educational opportunities for our nation's children ahead of wasteful spending and special interest pork." — Statement on passage of Fiscal Year 2007 spending bill, Feb. 14, 2007
Privately said: "I encourage you to use the bill reported out of the Republican-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee during the 109th Congress as guidance when you determine how to allocate your department’s funds in FY2007. I strongly support the priorities included in that bill. I believe they are essential to the nation and to my home state of Nevada." — Letter to the Interior Department, Feb. 16, 2007 (Similar letters to the Departments of Energy, Commerce, Agriculture, Justice, Housing and Urban Development, Education, and Labor)
Senator's response: "Senators and members of Congress from both parties have strong views about how best to prioritize federal spending. There's absolutely nothing wrong with communicating these views to the executive branch.'' — Reid spokesman Jim Manley
Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.)
Publicly said: "The legislation does not include earmarks — hear me — the legislation does not include earmarks… We will have a temporary moratorium on earmarks until Congress passes the ethics reform bill." — Senate speech, Feb. 8, 2007
Privately said: "I strongly urge that you give very careful consideration to including support for the following projects and funding levels in the agency’s funding plan." — Letter to the Department of the Interior, Feb. 16, 2007 (Similar letters to the Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services, Education, and the EPA)
Senator's response: Sen. Byrd was “simply trying to alert the agencies to specific needs in West Virginia. Senator Byrd has always maintained that members of Congress know the needs of their states far better than any bureaucrat.” — Byrd spokesman Tom Gavin
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.)
Publicly said: "There are no earmarks." — Senate speech, referring to the Fiscal Year 2007 spending bill, Feb. 13, 2007
Privately said: "I am writing today to ask for your support for an appropriations request that is important to the state of Wisconsin…. The Appropriations Committees provided ample insight as to their expectations…. I encourage you to appropriately recognize and act on those recommendations." — Letters to the Interior Department, March 7, 2007 (Similar letter to the Department of Health & Human Services)
Senator's response: "Senator Kohl fought for the projects in committee, they were vetted projects and good for the state. It’s up to the department’s discretion whether or not to fund the program. And in these cases they did not." — Kohl spokesman Joe Bonfiglio
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.)
Publicly said: The spending bill “eliminated billions of dollars worth of special-interest provisions that were inserted into previous appropriations bills with little or no oversight." — Statement on passage of spending bill, Feb. 15, 2007
Privately said: "I urge you to support the following Rhode Island projects…" — Letter to the Department of Commerce, Feb. 15, 2007 (Similar letters to the Departments of the Interior and Labor)
Senator's response: "Senator Reed's job is to advocate for the state, and that's what he's doing." — Reed spokesman Chip Unruh
>> Read the Administration's memo directing government agencies not to base funding on earmark requests