D.C. free-market group grades Congress on earmarks
Twenty-two members of the U.S. House of Representatives scored 100 percent on the 2009 "RePORK Card," a congressional grading system published by the Club for Growth in Washington, D.C. Higher percentage scores identify the politicians most willing to vote to remove earmarks, or "pork," from the federal budget. There were 21 Republicans and one Democrat receiving perfect grades. Not one member from M
Michigan — from either party — scored 100 percent.
The scorecard consists of 68 earmark-killing amendments introduced by U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, R-AZ, and two of his budget-cutting allies in Congress. These legislators launched a similar assault on earmarks during the 2008 federal budget battle. Support from Michigan politicians for five of the targeted spending projects were examined in the September/October 2009 Michigan Capitol Confidential.
Noting on July 16, 2009, that the federal government is running a "nearly $2 trillion deficit," Flake asked his fellow lawmakers, "Why in the world are we spending another $100,000" to give an earmark to the Myrtle Beach International Trade and Conference Center? Observing that convention centers exist all over the nation, Flake also asked: "Why we should choose one and say they're worthy of an earmark and the other one isn't, and saying that they shouldn't compete for dollars, we're just going to hand them out?"
Only 99 of 435 members of the U.S. House voted with Flake to kill this earmark for the South Carolina resort town. Like each of the other 67 efforts to remove earmarks from the 2010 budget, this one failed.
According to its Web page, the RePORK Card-sponsoring Club for Growth is a "national network of thousands of Americans" who "believe that prosperity and opportunity come through economic freedom." The separate Club for Growth Political Action Committee provides "financial support" from Club members to help "viable, pro-growth" candidates running for Congress. Club-funded challengers frequently run in Republican primaries against other Republican candidates who are deemed by Club membership to be too willing to support bigger government and higher taxes.
"The RePORK Card will help taxpayers measure the dedication of their representatives to changing the culture of corruption that surrounds pork-barrel spending," explained David Keating, the Club's executive director. But he believes the dedication wasn't there for most of them in 2009: "When given an opportunity to save taxpayer dollars and limit spending to true national priorities, most members of Congress took a pass."
The median 2009 score for all Republicans in the U.S. House was 69 percent, and just three of Michigan's seven Republicans scored higher than this. The median score for Democrats nationwide was zero percent, and six of eight Michigan Democrats posted this score.
The highest-scoring member from Michigan was U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, with 97 percent.
With a 43 percent grade, U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek, posted the highest score for any Michigan Democrat, and well above the 2009 RePORK Card national average for his party. Two Michigan Republicans posted RePORK Card grades substantially lower than did Schauer.
Some other earmark votes graded in the 2009 RePORK Card included $325,000 for the "Institute for Seafood Studies" in Louisiana, $90,000 for the "Commercial Kitchen Business Incubator project" in California, $150,000 for the "Tarrytown Music Hall" restoration in New York, $250,000 for the "Monroe County Farmer's Market" in Kentucky and $1 million for "potato research in Idaho, Oregon and Washington."
The 2009 RePORK Card grades for members of the Michigan delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives are below. Please note that scores for Michigan's two U.S. senators are not included in the RePORK Card because none of the 68 amendments that comprise this grade were introduced for a vote in the U.S. Senate.
2009 Club for Growth "RePORK Card" Scores
Higher percentages equal more votes to eliminate earmark pork
|Twenty-two members with perfect score||100 percent|
|U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland||97 percent|
|U.S. Rep. Thad McCotter, R-Livonia||85 percent|
|U.S. Rep. Vern Ehlers, R-Grand Rapids||78 percent|
|Median score for Republicans nationwide||69 percent|
|U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton||66 percent|
|U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph||53 percent|
|U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek||43 percent|
|U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Twp||31 percent|
|U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland||24 percent|
|U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Twp||1 percent|
|Median score for Democrats nationwide||0 percent|
|U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit||0 percent|
|U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn||0 percent|
|U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee, D-Flint||0 percent|
|U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick, D-Detroit||0 percent|
|U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Southfield||0 percent|
|U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee||0 percent|
Ken Braun is the senior managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.