AP ignored Democrats' response to earmark criticism: 40% are from Republicans

››› ››› ANDREW WALZER

The AP reported that "Republicans assailed" the omnibus bill recently passed by the House as "too costly" and quoted Republicans criticizing the bill as, in the reporter's words, "bristl[ing] with earmarks." At no point did the reporter give any indication that many of the earmarks were included at the request of Republicans.

In a February 26 Associated Press article on the omnibus legislation passed by the "Democratic-controlled House" on Tuesday, David Espo reported that "Republicans assailed the legislation as too costly" and quoted Republicans criticizing the bill as, in the reporter's words, "bristl[ing] with earmarks." While Espo included examples of Democratic earmarks, at no point did he give any indication that many of the earmarks were included in the bill at the request of Republicans. Moreover, Espo cited the Taxpayers for Common Sense as a critic of the earmarks in the bill, without noting that the group cited earmarks by both Democrats and Republicans.

While quoting Republicans attacking the bill for earmarks, Espo did not note a handout distributed on February 24 by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) titled "You can't spell 'earmark' without an 'R,' " asserting that "40% of the earmarks in the omnibus appropriations bill are Republican earmarks." The handout also stated that "[t]he earmarks in the omnibus appropriations bill total less than 1% of the budget," and that they "were reduced by 43% last year, and the omnibus appropriations bill reduces earmarks by another 5%."

Espo also wrote that "[a]fter persuading lawmakers to keep earmarks off the stimulus bill, Obama made no such attempt on the first non-emergency spending measure of his presidency. The result was that lawmakers claimed billions in federal funds for pet projects -- a total of 8,570 earmarks at a cost of $7.7 billion, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense [TCS]." He added: "Majority Democrats declined to provide a number of earmarks, but said the cost was far smaller, $3.8 billion, 5 percent less than a year ago." However, Espo did not note that TCS highlighted both Republican and Democratic earmarks.

Indeed, in its February 24 item on the earmarks in the omnibus bill, TCS reported that Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-MT) sponsored an earmark designating $300,000 for a "Montana World Trade Center," Rep. John Peterson (R-PA) sponsored an earmark designating $200,000 for an "Oil Region Alliance," and Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY) sponsored an earmark designating $190,000 for the "Buffalo Bill Historical Center."

By contrast, in their reporting on the omnibus bill, several other media outlets have noted the Democrats' response to Republican allegations about earmarks. In a February 24 Congressional Quarterly article on the appropriations bill, staff writer Bennett Roth reported:

House Democrats are working to undercut accusations by Republicans that the omnibus spending bill represents a spending spree on earmarks -- and pointedly noting that the measure includes a healthy number of GOP-sponsored special projects.

Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., distributed a handout Tuesday at his weekly news conference entitled, "You can't spell 'earmark' without an 'R,' " which stated that 40 percent of the earmark dollars included in the bill were sponsored by Republicans.

The appropriations omnibus (HR 1105) is scheduled for a House vote Wednesday.

"Republicans are continuing to try to sweep their history under the rug and convince the American people that they are committed to fiscal responsibility," stated the handout. "But their record on earmarks and the amount of earmarks contained in the omnibus appropriations bill make it clear that Republicans are just using this as another political ploy."

Also, in a February 24 McClatchy article headlined "GOP hates earmarks -- except the ones its members sponsor," David Lightman reported: "Republicans are expected to deliver a daylong rant Wednesday against Democratic spending legislation, yet the bill is loaded with thousands of pet projects that Republican lawmakers inserted." Lightman also reported: "House Democrats estimate that Republicans inserted 40 percent of the earmarks in the bill. An independent budget watchdog group, Taxpayers for Common Sense, said the 60-40 Democratic-Republican ratio followed historical patterns."

Furthermore, Lightman also reported on the earmarks of Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), the senior Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), the top Republican on Senate Appropriations:

Rep. Jerry Lewis of California, the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, would spend $3.8 million on a Needles, Calif., highway.

Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, the top Republican on Senate Appropriations, backs earmarks including a $950,000 nature education center in Moss Point, Miss. He defends earmarks.

"You have to take these on a case-by-case basis," he said. "A lot of these projects are justified."

One prominent Republican critic, however, wouldn't relent. When he was asked what Obama should do with a bill full of earmarks, Sen. John McCain of Arizona said flatly: "I would call on him to veto it."

In addition, an AP audio report on Espo's article asserted: "Republicans blasted the measure for including almost 9,000 earmarks at a cost of more than 7 billion dollars," but did not report that some of the earmarks are sponsored by Republicans.

From the February 26 AP article:

The Democratic-controlled House pushed through a $410 billion measure Wednesday that boosted domestic programs, bristled with earmarks and chipped away at policies left behind by the Bush administration.

[...]

After persuading lawmakers to keep earmarks off the stimulus bill, Obama made no such attempt on the first non-emergency spending measure of his presidency. The result was that lawmakers claimed billions in federal funds for pet projects -- a total of 8,570 earmarks at a cost of $7.7 billion, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense. Majority Democrats declined to provide a number of earmarks, but said the cost was far smaller, $3.8 billion, 5 percent less than a year ago.

Among the earmarks was one sponsored by Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., who secured $200,000 for a "tattoo removal violence outreach program" in Los Angeles. Aides said the money would pay for a tattoo removal machine that could help gang members or others shed visible signs of their past, and anyone benefiting would be required to perform community service.

Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., said the bill included at least a dozen earmarks for clients of PMA Group, a lobbying company now at the center of a federal corruption investigation.

"It's simply not responsible to allow a soon-to-be-criminally indicted lobbying firm to win funding, all borrowed, in this bill," he said. No charges have been filed against the firm or its principals, although the company's offices were raided earlier this month, and it has announced plans to disband by the end of the month.

Federal prosecutors are investigating PMA Group's founder and president, Paul Magliochetti, who is a former top aide to Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds defense programs.

In remarks on the House floor, Republican leader John Boehner urged Obama to veto the legislation, citing earmarks.

At the White House, press secretary Robert Gibbs responded only in general terms whether that was possible.

"There is great concern in this building and by the president about earmarks," Gibbs said. "Without having looked specifically at a piece of legislation, I'm hesitant to throw out that four-letter word, 'Veto.' "

From the AP web audio report:

Republicans blasted the measure for including almost 9,000 earmarks at a cost of more than 7 billion dollars. Democrats wouldn't say how many there are, but insist the cost is about half that amount. One of the earmarks was for a $200,000 program to help gang members erase their tattoos.

Posted In
Economy, Budget
Network/Outlet
Associated Press
Person
David Espo
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