One interest group is very upset about Senator Jim DeMint’s (R-SC) plan to force a vote in the Senate Republican Conference for a two year earmark moratorium — Lobbyists. According to The Hill, the lobbying group that represents lobbyists are very angry and worried that the easy money days of earmarking for dollars is over. Yes, even lobbyists have lobbyist in Washington, D.C.
The head of the American League of Lobbyists is blasting the proposed earmark bans in Congress, saying lawmakers are letting down their constituents by not working to fund projects in their districts. Dave Wenhold, the league’s president, said members of Congress would not be representing voters’ interests if they adopted the “foolish” proposal to ban earmarking.
Taxpayers Against Earmarks has an excellent compilation of pledged votes on the DeMint Amendment. Right now this list has more Senate Republicans voting for DeMint’s Amendment than against. Although the vote total now has the pro-earmark moratorium forces with a huge majority, it is important to note that the Conference will have a vote on the DeMint proposal in secret and the undecideds may all vote against DeMint.
Jim Harper at Washington Watch has this take on the earmark lobbyists lobbying against an earmark ban:
So does it help preserve earmarking for a group representing lobbyists to come out in favor of earmarking? Heck no! A variety of earmark opponents are doing everything they can to spread this news far and wide. It helps their battle to get rid of earmarks if they can show that lobbyists like those pesky little spending instructions. Going to the press was a fundamental error for the American League of Lobbyists and for Bob Livingston. These are the Keystone Kops of advocacy.
Dave Wenhold is an excellent voice for the pro-earmark lobbying community, because he is proud an earmark lobbyist. In his bio he brags that he has earmarked millions of your tax dollars for court reporters.
Dave then became the Director of Government Relations and Public Policy at the National Court Reporters Association where he was successful in lobbying the Judicial Branch, the Executive Branch and persuaded Congress to earmark tens of millions of dollars for the court reporting profession.
Wenhold tells The Hill that earmark lobbyists are worried that the easiest way to make money in D.C., earmark lobbying, will be hit hard by the DeMint plan.
Banning the pet projects would also hit at one of K Street’s most profitable sectors: appropriations lobbying. Wenhold admits an earmark ban would hurt lobbying revenues but says voters would suffer more. “It will definitely put a ding in the lobbying profession,” Wenhold said. “The real losers of this are going to be the members of Congress and their constituents.”
It is true that Members of Congress will not get as much money in campaign donations from earmark lobbyists, so they will be hurt in the wallet. Constitutents who own high end clothing stores should worry that demand will go down for Armani suits, silk ties and Gucci shoes. Wenhold is not the only earmark lobbyist fighting to preserve earmarks. Former Congressman from Louisiana and current lobbyist Bob Livingston wrote an Op Ed for the Wall Street Journal where he argued that:
But my advice to Republicans, if you regain the majority, is not to shun the appropriations committees—and not to shun good and honorable earmarks, which even in the worst of years accounted for less than 1% of the federal budget. If earmarks have merit, make them transparent to the public and stand by them. Don’t sneak them through in the dead of night.
The members and lobbyists who love earmarking argue that we need “transparency” as a means to allow the American people better understand the earmarking process. Transparency is a means for members and lobbyist to brag that they brought home the bacon. Transparency initially did not stop the Bridge to Nowhere and has yet to stop money flowing to Maine for the Lobster Museum.
I wrote in Human Events in March of 2009 the over 9,000 earmarks buried in the FY2009 Omnibus Spending Bill, signed by President Obama, included money for lobsters in Maine thanks to Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.
Collins and Snowe have inserted a $150,000 earmark in the omnibus for the Maine Department of Marine Resources to conduct “lobster research.” Tax dollars to research lobsters hardly seems an essential function of government, especially in times of economic distress. According to the State of Maine, the “Lobster Program” has collected statistics on the commercial and natural population of lobsters along the Maine coast for 30 years.
We have transparency, yet we still have federal dollars flowing to study lobsters in Maine.