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Senator McCaskill has somehow managed to position herself in the eyes of the general public as a fiscally minded politician. I’d say a healthy part of that comes from her time as the State Auditor here in Missouri. People tend to think of the Auditor as a position of someone who knows what is and what isn’t good spending. McCaskill is definitely trading on that experience.
On Wednesday, McCaskill took to the Senate floor and railed against earmarks (though unsurprisingly she only highlighted the Republican offeders).
“Every single member of Republican leadership has earmarks in this bill,” McCaskill said. “Every single one of these people rejected the stimulus … because supposedly they were so upset about wasteful spending.”
At one point, McCaskill made a veiled criticism of her fellow Missouri senator, Christopher S. “Kit” Bond, R-Mo., saying there are some who argue that bureaucrats should not decide where spending goes. This has been a common argument made by Bond, a major supporter of earmarks.
“This notion that bureaucrats are doing the decision making — we have the power to tell the bureaucrats how to spend the money,” McCaskill said.
“This notion that somehow we need to do earmarks because the bureaucrats are going to run amok, I don’t get it,” she added.
A headline from yesterday’s online version of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
McCaskill joins McCain in anti-earmark effort, announces local grants
Ugh. One of my chief policy pet peeves is the idea that congressfolk earmarking money to special interests is bad, but having bureaucrats dole out the same sort of cheese through grants and loans is A-OK.
Says Sen. McCaskill (D-MO):
We are looking at deficits in the trillions, and I think Americans are fed up with the way Washington has been spending their money…. Changing the earmark culture is not the whole solution to bringing fiscal responsibility back, but it’s a start.
So far so good, but then:
Also Wednesday, McCaskill announced two grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA):
- A total of $752,560 to the city of Silex in Lincoln County. “The money is being provided through the United State’s Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development funding initiative, which works to improve the economy and quality of life in rural communities by supporting and providing government loans and grants…. According to the USDA, the city will receive a grant of $387,560 and a low-interest government loan of $365,000. The funds will be used to upgrade the centralized sewer system, providing improved water treatment facilities and adding thousands of feet in main line.”
- $50,000 to the city of Berger in Franklin County. The money comes from the same USDA program targeting rural communities. “According to the USDA, the funding will be used to provide a centralized sewer system that will improve the health and sanitary conditions of the area by providing water to residents who currently rely on failing septic tanks,” the senator’s office said.”
So, if another member of the Missouri congressional delegation had instead instructed the USDA to redistribute taxpayer money to these two Missouri communities via language in a piece of legislation it would have been bad? According to Sen. McCaskill, the answer is apparently “yes.”
Look, I’m happy Sen. McCaskill is on board the anti-earmark train. Kudos to her. But whichever means Congress chooses, the end is the same: taxpayers on the hook for special interest spending.
Geesh, you’d think a former State Auditor would know that it doesn’t matter how you tell someone to spend the money, but that you do tell someone to spend the money.
McCaskill hates earmarks, but she’s definitely a fan of the spending. Remember, she did vote for the (over) $1T “stimulus” bill and seems to be falling lock step in line with every big government spending plan the Democrats have pushed.
On second thought, does McCaskill really hate earmarks all that much? Yes? Then why did she vote against a provision that would have eliminated 13 earmarks for the PMA lobbying firm that was recently raided by the FBI? And why would she reportedly have voted yes on the Omnibus bill loaded with over 9,000 earmarks?
It doesn’t stop with earmarks. Senator McCaskill has also doubled down on her antics this week by co-sponsoring a bill proposed by MI Senator Carl Levin that would crack down on the use of off shore tax shelters. Funny thing is, McCaskill uses one of those very tax shelters she wants crack down on:
Which is funny—given that McCaskill has disclosed partial ownership of a company called Rural Reinsurance Company International, Ltd, based in Hamilton, Bermuda. According to her most recent personal financial disclosure, the asset is valued between $500,001 and $1,000,000.
This arrangement has drawn the attention of ethics watchdogs and the Kansas City Star (subscription required), which published an article that included McCaskill’s tacit admission that her Bermuda-based company was, in fact, a tax shelter:
Furthermore, one of [McCaskill’s husband Joseph] Shepard’s interests–a Bermuda-based reinsurance company–shares attributes with a tax shelter the IRS wants Congress to rein in.
Some experts say that if a reinsurance firm does not have employees or offices and does not market its services, its purposes are suspect.
It’s all about avoiding taxes, said Robert McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice, a Washington watchdog group. “That’s the whole point of them. I’ve heard so many excuses for doing it. But why is it in Bermuda? There’s only one reason. Because of taxes.”
“There is absolutely no tax sheltering that is occurring that is not part of a tax code that Senator Talent embraces,” McCaskill said Monday night at a debate in Springfield.
But if the Senate does take up legislation aimed at curtailing such shelters, McCaskill would be in a position to help decide whether one of her husband’s major investments could survive.
Funny, McCaskill is in a position to decide whether one of her husband’s major investments will survive. How much do you want to bet they know for sure that he will be able to keep it?
So Missouri, how do you feel about your fiscally responsible Senator now? Don’t fall for the smoke and mirrors. McCaskill’s real fiscal credentials wouldn’t get her a seat at the 4H budget meeting.