in Houston, Texas
Rep. Kay Granger’s $52 million for Trinity River makes list of Congressional ‘earmarks’ for projects near members’ property
Tuesday, Feb 07, 2012, 03:31PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
U.S. House

Rep. Kay Granger’s tireless work in Washington has delivered nearly 52 million dollars to downtown Fort Worth redevelopment. Taxpayers can rest easy knowing she has put that money in the hands of her son, JD.

Granger, R-Fort Worth, didn’t top the Washington Post’s list of 49 members of Congress who managed to bring more than $300 million in federal money to places close enough to benefit them or someone close to them.

That would be Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., whose $124 million in what the Beltway crowd quaintly calls earmarks has spiffed up downtown Tuscaloosa where Shelby just happens to own an office building.

Granger had to settle for second, edging out California Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who believed Americans were anxious to part with $50 million to provide light rail for Union Square and Chinatown in San Francisco.

The Post examined the greasy dives into the pork barrel by all 535 members of Congress and found 33 who helped direct spending to projects within about two miles of where they live or own property.

Another 16 lawmakers slung suet-smeared slabs at programs, businesses and colleges where relatives might reasonably be seen to benefit.

And although the practice is sometimes looked down upon by the public (hence all the allusions to pigs, their ears and waistlines), as Texas Watchdog has pointed out, the story reminds us this wallow is altogether legal. The Senate earlier this month voted 59-40 against an amendment outlawing earmarks.

While the amounts of money and the projects varied, there was a single unwavering reply to questions by the Post to the pork mongers: In no way was personal benefit a consideration before my fatty, two-fisted barrel grab.

Granger has taken full advantage of her legal right. In 2010 she delivered to her district $70.4 million in 35 different installments, 29th among everyone in the House, according to the government accountability non-profit Open Secrets.

Over the past 10 years Granger has made sure all American taxpayers got a stake in the revival of downtown Fort Worth. The project includes rerouting the Trinity River for those taxpayers in Maine who might not have known the river needed rerouting.

The executive director of the Trinity River Vision Authority is JD Granger. Until 2010, mother and son owned a condominium a half a mile south of the project, the story says.

Texas put four others on the list, piglet snatchers compared to Granger.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, who has lobbied for light rail earmarks, helped secure $5.25 million to the University of Houston in 2009 and 2010. At the time her husband, Elwyn Lee, was vice president of student affairs.

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, managed to get $2.98 million to widen three miles of bypass for U.S. Highway 287, the dust of which probably stuck to the windows of two nearby homes Barton owns.

Just up the road from Republican Rep. Lamar Smith’s San Antonio home are three road improvements paid for with $950,000 Smith earmarked in 2009 for the Fort Sam Houston military base.

That same year Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, brought home $665,000 to help widen a road for the development of  a commercial property near the family’s food processing plant. Hinojosa is a partner in the commercial development.
 
***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo from the House chambers via houselive.gov.
Democrats call President Obama's promise to clamp down on earmarks a power grab
Wednesday, Jan 26, 2011, 01:42PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
slot machine

Democrats, who cheered on and voted for President Obama's $862 billion stimulus and a health care bill with a multibillion-dollar cost estimate still spinning like a Reno slot machine, are calling his promise to veto $16.5 billion in earmarks a presidential power grab. Seriously.

Given the addiction of Democrats to the federal tax grab aptly known by the name for a farmer's notch in his pig's ear, it is no surprise at their indignation over anyone threatening to shut down the stockyard. A joint study in December by Taxpayers Against Earmarks, Taxpayers for Common Sense and Washington Watch showed just how earmarks and opposition to them broke along party lines.

But the same Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. who takes daily comfort in the knowledge that the president would almost certainly veto a congressional repeal of his health care bill, passed already by the House, is suggesting in Politico today the president is usurping legislative authority by promising to veto what amounts to a miniscule piece of the $3.8 trillion U.S. budget.

“I think this is an issue that any president would like to have, that takes power away from the legislative branch of government,” Reid told reporters after a caucus lunch. “I think it’s the wrong thing to do. I don’t think it’s helpful. It’s a lot of pretty talk, but it only gives the president more power. He’s got enough power already.”

Never mind that Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has already said no appropriations bills with earmarks will pass a House in which 173 Republicans, 19 of them from Texas, have foresworn even asking for earmarks, according to the taxpayer group study.

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., said that if Congress can't spend the taxpayer's money the way it wants to, then no one will, least of all the President of the United States.

“If he’s going to veto something with earmarks in it -- I’m not a fool, we’re not going to move forward on it,” Nelson said. “I’m in favor of taking that 0.07 percent, taking it out of the budget, we’re not going to leave it for the president to spend, we’re not going to leave it for the bureaucracy to spend, we are going to take it out of the budget.”

Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feed in your newsreader. We're also onMySpaceDiggFriendFeedNewsVine and tumblr.

Photo of a slot machine by flickr user Jeff Kubina, used via a Creative Commons license.

Texas third in tally of botched federal earmarks
Wednesday, Jan 05, 2011, 10:58AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
pig

It isn't enough to flock like vultures to pick at the earmarked spoils of federal taxation or to spread the spoils around on questionable ventures. Politicians, apparently, have also developed a refined ability to make federal earmarks disappear.

Through a variety of circumstances almost always involving error, $13 billion in federal tax dollars earmarked for highway projects since 1991 in this country has gone unspent, according to a great package yesterday by USA Today. Of that total, the $417.4 million unspent in Texas is third only to New York and California.

What makes these 7,374 so-called orphan earmarks doubly damaging is they count against a state's total share of federal highway funds. USA Today estimates that these squandered earmarks have cost states $7.5 billion that could have been directed at other projects over the last 20 years.

Take the case of President Barack Obama and his former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. As the Democratic senator and the Democratic representative of Illinois, respectively, Obama and Emanuel teamed up in 2005 to secure nearly $2 million in pork for a highway underpass for a Chicago suburb.

The problem was that the underpass project had already been started with other funding, canceling their earmark and costing their state the $2 million in shared federal gas tax revenue.

It could have been worse. The city of Atlanta has $2.7 million in earmarked money that, by law, can only be spent on projects specific to its 1996 Olympics. Look for the Georgia delegation to include a substantial earmark in an upcoming transportation bill for the construction of a time machine.

Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feed in your newsreader. We're also onMySpaceDiggFriendFeedNewsVine and tumblr.

Photo of a pig by flickr user turfcutter, used via a Creative Commons license.

Texas lawmakers asked for $5.5 billion in earmarked projects, state ranks 40th in requested pork per-capita
Tuesday, Dec 07, 2010, 12:08PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
pig

It is rare, indeed, for U.S. Rep. Ron Paul to to keep company on any list alongside Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and censured Rep. Charles Rangel, D-NY. Rarer still to be thought of as a hooligan.

And yet there he is, the Tea Party patriarch, on a list made up of 253 Democrats and six Republicans who have been branded House Hooligans for requesting billions of dollars for designated projects, money affectionately referred to as earmarks. The list is part of a remarkable database unveiled today by Taxpayers Against Earmarks, Taxpayers for Common Sense and WashingtonWatch.com.

The database, with lots of interactive doohickeys and gizmos, shows senators and representatives asked for 39,293 earmarks worth almost $131 billion in this current fiscal year. An interactive map allows you to search for 2011 earmark requests state by state and Congressional district.

Texas acquits itself rather well if you happen to find the scramble to hoard American tax dollars as distasteful as the image of a farmer carving a notch in the ears of his pigs to show he owns them. Texas lawmakers asked for $5.5 billion in earmarked projects, putting the state 40th in the amount of pork requested per capita.

A story today by Politico about the new database is quick to point out that the $131 billion is money requested by legislators, not the money those legislators eventually get when all the lawmaking dust has settled. This past year, lawmakers were able to direct $16.5 billion in hard-earned tax money to their districts, millions and millions of it for projects of questionable importance, such as goat and botanical research and the health behaviors of the people of Kelly,Texas.

What the database establishes clearly is how cleanly the culture of earmark currying has divided itself by political party. The study considers Heroes those lawmakers who have sworn to forego earmarks in the coming fiscal year. These include 173 House Republicans, 19 of them from Texas and just five Democrats, and 31 Republican Senators, including Kay Bailey Hutchison, who swears her days of 119 earmark requests valued at $771 million last year are behind her, and just six Democrats.

The Hooligan column is populated with 253 Democratic House members, including Pelosi, Rangel and 11 members from Texas, and 51 Democratic senators. Ten Republican senators and two Independent senators are Hooligans as well as six Republican House members, including Paul. Paul is unapologetic in his request for 51 earmarks totaling $358 million.

Paul is not, by number of earmarks or dollar value, the biggest hooligan in Texas. That dubious distinction is held by Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, who has made requests for 94 earmarks valued at $783.9 million.

“This data reinforces that Congress needs to pause and think about better ways to allocate our precious taxpayer dollars,” Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, told Politico.

Contact Mark Lisheron at mark@texaswatchdog.org or 512-299-2318.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feed in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, NewsVine and tumblr.

Photo of a pig by flickr user Benimoto, used via a Creative Commons license.

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