It was wonderful to read Brian Faughnan's front page diary about Rick Boucher (D-VA09) being in danger of losing his re-election bid this year! Boucher is a first-rate example of the dangers of the power of incumbency; how a Congressman totally out of step with his constituents can make a lifetime career in the Capitol.
Back in 1994, while a graduate student at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, I was one of those misrepresented constituents. I wrote a commentary for the Tech newspaper urging Boucher's defeat. Someone at the Roanoke Times & World News saw my article and reprinted a version (that I slightly modified) of the commentary. Except for a few dated references, this commentary could apply equally today. It's just sad that 16 years later, the great people of the Virginia 9th are still stuck with this loser.
So to help add fuel to the anti-Boucher fire, and to relive some old memories from my Virginia days, here is my commentary in its entirety. (By the way, enjoy the reference to the good old days of the Clinton economic stimulus package, with a whopping $16 billion price tag!)
Pork in the 9th: Cleaning up Washington starts at home
by Mark Sensmeier
Monday, Oct. 24, 1994
The November elections are just a few weeks away, and public frustration with the federal government, primarily Congress, seems to be reaching a fevered pitch. We, the people, are fed up with an unaccountable Congress more interested in placating lobbyists and getting re-elected than following the will of the people. There is a plethora of stories of the Rostenkowskis, Packwoods and others who continually abuse the public trust.
Despite our complaints about the unresponsiveness and wastefulness in Washington, the true blame does not rest there. It rests with us. We continue to send the same people back to Congress without thinking about what we are doing. If a member of Congress brings money (translated "pork") back to his or her home district, we run to the polls to re-elect that person like so many lemmings diving off a cliff.
We think that if our congressman brings lots of federal grants back home, he is helping us out. This could not be farther from the truth. To obtain this pork for our district, our congressman must make a multitude of deals with other members of Congress so they can bring home pork to their district as well.
So we end up having to send more money to Washington to pay for the pork in the other 434 districts than we receive in pork for our own district. The result is that the entire country is hurt and spending spirals out of control, leading to the devastating federal debt we have today.
We have the opportunity here in Virginia's 9th District to do something about this. In Rick Boucher, we have a perfect illustration of what is wrong with Congress today. The 9th is a large, primarily small-town and rural district. Southwestern Virginians for the most part hold dear the conservative principles on which this nation was founded. But because Boucher is adept at bringing pork home, we keep sending him back to Washington. This, despite the fact that his liberal views and particularly his liberal voting record couldn't be more out of touch with the views of the majority of voters in the 9th District.
According to Congressional Quarterly, in 1993 he voted to support President Clinton 85 percent of the time, and voted in a Democratic partisan manner 93 percent of the time. On the other hand, Boucher received low ratings from the American Conservative Union (13 percent), the American Security Council (30 percent) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (30 percent).
Boucher also voted in favor of the infamous Clinton economic-stimulus package, a $16 billion waste of taxpayer money. He voted against the Penny-Kasich deficity-reduction bill, against the balanced-budget amendment, and he cast the deciding vote in the 1993 Clinton tax increase.
Despite this liberal voting record, he continues to be easily re-elected in a fairly conservative district. Why? Primarily because he brings the pork home. But to do this, he has to support similar pork spending for other congressmen. The result is that the National Taxpayer Union, the nation's leading taxpayer watchdog group, rates him as one of the biggest spenders in Congress. In 1993, Boucher voted to increase spending in five out of every six opportunities.
It shouldn't surprise us that Boucher does not represent the views of the voters in this district. In 1991-92 (the last full cycle reported), Boucher took in campaign receipts of more that $600,000. Out of this total, almost two-thirds (63 percent) was from political action committees (PAC's). So much for getting special interests out of Washington.
So, if we in the 9th District of Virginia want to help clean up Congress, we have a golden opportunity this November. Let's stop complaining about Congress, and start doing something about it. Let's send someone to Washington who will uphold the values of Southwestern Virginians and who won't make a living wasting taxpayer money. "Kick Rick" on Nov. 8!
Mark Sensmeier of Blacksburgh is a graduate student in engineering science and mechanics at Virginia Tech.
Let's (FINALLY) Kick Rick in 2010!!