The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and New York Times all had major stories on congressional earmark spending today. But while the media are beginning to pay attention to the corruption of pork-barrel spending, the House leadership is still using earmarks as a political tool to reward loyal freshman members. And back home, members often face strong political pressure for taking a principled stand against wasteful spending.
Enter Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who represents the hard-working rural communities of California’s agriculturally rich Central Valley, including Reedley, Visalia and Tulare. Nunes has pledged not to seek federal earmarked funding for projects that haven’t been previously authorized and this is upsetting local officials who are now in Washington for their annual earmark lobbying trip.
“Earmarks are still a way of life, no matter what the other high-level conversations may be,” said Barbara Goodwin, executive director of the Council of Fresno County Governments and a Nunes critic. But Nunes is unswayed, maintaining that the 11,000-plus earmarks approved by the Congress last year were distributed unfairly, and often included unworthy projects. No Central Valley lawmaker serves on the House Appropriations Committee, whose members get the lion’s share of earmarks.
The only way to end the culture of spending in Congress is to encourage those like Nunes who refuse to participate in the corrupt earmark system.