issue: Rep. Jeff Flake's fight against earmarks
Who said it: Jeff Flake, U.S. representative
by Jose Zavala and Dan Nowicki - June 26, 2012, 10:43 pm
Race: U.S. senator
Office: U.S. representative, District No. 6
No stars: Statement is labeled either false, inconclusive, unsupported or misleading.
One star: Mostly false.
Two stars: Somewhat true/somewhat false.
Three stars: Mostly true.
Four stars: True.
A campaign commercial for U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Flake said the six-term congressman got rid of earmarks.
Voiceover: "Jeff Flake got rid of earmarks. Many tried, he succeeded."
Campaign commercial released June 12, 2012, on Jeff Flake's YouTube page and on television June 13.
Flake has long stood against earmarks, even if it meant him being unpopular with other members of Congress. The Republican congressman has tried time and again to get rid of the practice, which allows members of Congress to directly appropriate funds for pet projects in their states and districts. References to his opposition to the often-wasteful congressional practice of funneling taxpayer money to the home districts of key lawmakers date to 2002 in The Arizona Republic's archives. The Senate Appropriations Committee instituted a moratorium on earmarks in Senate spending bills for fiscal years 2011 and 2012. This year, the moratorium was extended to include all fiscal year 2013 Appropriations bills.
In an interview with 60 Minutes that aired in 2006, Flake's battle against earmarks was compared to Jimmy Stewart's efforts in the film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. In the film, Stewart is a naive junior senator who stands by his beliefs and goes up against special interests and political corruption in the Senate.
The 60 Minutes interview highlighted Flake's challenging of several earmarks, including $6 million for windmills meant to generate power on military bases, $500,000 for renovations to a public swimming pool in Banning, Calif., and $1 million for tourism promotion in Kentucky. The interview said that at the time, Flake had demanded 39 times on the House floor that certain earmarks be cut, and 39 times he was voted down.
Flake's current earmark-amendment record in the House is 138 failed, 1 ruled out of order, and 1 passed, according to Flake spokesman Andrew Wilder.
That means 138 of Flake's earmark amendments were turned down, he was not given the chance to offer another (ruled out of order) and one was passed, which meant the earmark did not receive any federal funding. The Perfect Christmas Tree earmark amendment passed with a vote of 249-174 in the House. The project would have given $129,000 to the Mitchell County Development Foundation Inc. for the Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree project in Mitchell County, N.C.
Flake's long battle against earmarks finally started to pay off when House Republicans instituted an earmark moratorium in March 2010. The moratorium was extended to the entire House when Republicans took over the House in January 2011. Without earmarks in the House, the Senate put into place an earmark moratorium.
On Feb. 1, 2011, U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawaii, announced the implementation of a two-year moratorium on earmarks in Senate spending bills that applied to fiscal years 2011 and 2012. On Feb. 2, 2012, Inouye announced the moratorium would be extended to include all fiscal year 2013 appropriations bills.
Wil Cardon, Flake's chief Republican primary adversary, and his supporters have attacked Flake's claim that he got rid of earmarks and have questioned the effectiveness of the moratorium. Although Congress certifies that its legislation is free of earmarks, critics say some wasteful earmark spending is continuing through other means.
The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) is the lobbying arm of Citizens Against Government Waste and is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement in government.
The president of the organization, Tom Schatz, issued a statement June 13 reacting to critics of Flakeâ€™s record on earmarks.
"No one has worked harder than Rep. Flake to eliminate earmarks," Schatz said. "He was a staunch supporter of the earmark moratorium prior to its eventual success, and has defended it at every turn. Rep. Flake has pushed for a tougher, permanent moratorium, and has led the fight against funding the most egregious earmarks."
The organization gave Flake a score of 100 percent in the CCAGW 2010 Congressional Ratings, giving him the rank of Taxpayer Super Hero for the fifth time in nine years. He received a lifetime rating of 98 percent, second best in the House and Senate combined.
U.S. Senator Jim DeMint, R-S.C., endorsed Jeff Flake for U.S. Senate in a blog message from April 30. "Jeff Flake has fought a lonely battle against earmarks for years, even when it meant standing up to members of his own party who refused to stop pork barrel spending. Without his leadership, House Republicans would not have adopted the earmark moratorium last year."
Steve Ellis is the vice president of the nonpartisan watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense. In a recent interview about Jeff Flake, Ellis told The Arizona Republic, "It's pretty fair to say his leadership helped get rid of earmarks."
Bottom line: Flake's leadership and constant battle against earmarks did help lead to the eventual moratorium on the practice. His colleagues and taxpayer watchdog groups credit his role as essential and it's reasonable to say it wouldn't have happened without him. It's true that Flake by himself did not get rid of earmarks, and certainly some wasteful congressional spending will continue even with them officially gone. But his lonely years-long crusade, his undeniable status as the House's No. 1 earmark foe and his outsized influence on the issue does give him unique standing to take credit for getting rid of them.
"60 Minutes interview" from 2006
U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint blog message endorsement from April 30, 2012
Council for Citizens Against Government Waste statement, June 13, 2012
"Flake's earmark claim disputed," The Arizona Republic, June 16, 2012
Interview with Council for Citizens Against Government Waste president Tom Schatz
Interview with Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense
Interview with Andrew Wilder, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake.
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