Another example of what is still wrong with Congress

There may be only one thing that I think a lot of us agreed with McCain on, but that one thing was earmarks. Turns out that practice is alive and well.

Washington state congressman Jim McDermott (D) has an earmark for $250,000 in federal money to help repair a building in Seattle. The problem? The building is owned by an elite private club that charges $191 a month in dues. The justification? “Historic preservation.”

McDermott certainly isn’t the only one that is still using this earmark, but at a time when we in the budget shape we are in, this is just absurd even for an earmark.

Honestly earmarks aren’t that huge a deal. All of them added together represent a tiny tiny drop in the bucket of government spending.

I don’t like earmarks but there are bigger fish to fry.

While that’s technically true, at this point it’s like when you are using your credit card to get by on and are using it for things like going out for fast food or other stuff that isn’t necessary. Sure, you can argue that $5 isn’t anything in the bigger picture, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are not being financially responsible.

No, it’s more like you taking a portion of your money that you have declared discretionary income and declaring “this portion will be reserved exclusively for the purchasing of Oblivion.” Your intention was to spend that money in some way regardless, so all you’ve done is earmarked that money for a specific purpose.

The process isn’t problematic in the least.

That said, some of the projects that have had funding earmarked for their completion are. This project should never have been submitted in the first place.

Yeah, people seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of what earmarking is. This project doesn’t result in an additional $250K being added to the budget.

As for whether it’s justified, well, who knows? There’s a lot of missing info. Is the building actually of historical significance? Are the repairs needed? Can the club afford it on it’s own? Knowing what their monthly dues are doesn’t actually tell us that much about their finances.

It’s not missing if you read the link . . .

Not to mention that McDermott has bigger problems in his office. :)

Meta question: did most of the QT3ers and/or leftists understand earmarks since the start of the campaign against them? Maybe it’s the Republicans on the car forum that didn’t get it since McCain was bleating about them so much. 2008 is so hazy now.

It’s not the size of the earmarks that matter. It’s that earmarks are used to buy votes on larger bills. If you vote for this bill, then I’ll give you $15 mil in pork projects for example. If you don’t, then you won’t get another earmark from me again. Furthermore, earmarks are also used as payoff to lobbyists and those folks who donate a ton of $$$ to your campaign.

Earmarks are legalized bribery for govt officials.

That first example might be better described as concession and compromise.

It’s not bribery because it’s not resulting in the personal enrichment of the people making the votes. It’s vote trading. Vote trading is how legislatures work.

EDIT: Beaten by Glenn, he of the nimble fingers!

The article asserts answers or partial answers to Hawkeye’s questions, but it often doesn’t support its answers to the extent that we should accept their answers as definitely true.

Which is fine; the article author hasn’t failed in his/her duty, I don’t think. He was writing a newspaper article, not a peer-reciewed academic article. But there isn’t enough info in that article where outrage is the only reasonable response; there seems to be plenty of room for skepticism.

I’m not really sure where you can say there is room for skepticism. The article points out that this is a private club, that the members are “well-heeled and politically connected residents” who pay $191/mo (which strongly suggests people with significant disposable incomes), and that both the city and state consider the buiding a landmark but that the feds do not. The article also points out that this earmark is diverting money from a program that is supposed to use an open, merit based approach to determine what the money should be used for.

As a tax payer, I’m not at all convinced that subsidizing repairs to a private club for elite folks is where my tax money should be going at a time when we are running record national deficits.

Because there is? It’s historic preservation, it’s fund matching against private donations which implies it’s not money being spent on some frivolous lark, and there’s no evidence that it’s a return favor for a major donor or any such shady thing.

Let your elected representatives know about it then. They are your voice in congress.

I don’t know why anybody bothers getting pissed off about our politicians. They are all crooks and it will never never never ever change.

Nuh uh, we can vote! Democracy, yay!

I tried that for years! The hell with it.

~1200 members at $191/month equals an annual budget (from dues) of ~$2,750,400. Apparently they have at least some capacity to raise money from their members beyond this.

They don’t have to pay for a renovation like this all at once. They could finance it, or even save up for a few years and then do it. Or they could perhaps do it a bit more cheaply than they’d planned. (I’m guessing an elite club with “wood-paneled dining halls” goes first-class on renovations. Perhaps they could try second-class.)

Using tax revenues raised, in part at least, from the masses, for something that is primarily of private benefit to the elite, sounds a bit more like France under Louis XIV than I’d like.

One hundred senators out there (well, 99 for the time being)*, and McDermott/his office manages to produce two embarassing stories in a couple weeks? Maybe McDermott needs to surround himself with savvier operatives. Or maybe McDermott himself is a bit lacking in common sense and/or savvy.

*Edit - as someone pointed out to me below, he’s a representative, not a senator. To be able to stand out from a relatively large crowd twice in a short time for stuff like this and the other incident takes a special kind of talent.

Yeah, I agree with Phil that this is something of little benefit to the public. And while these kinds of things aren’t bribes, you can bet that some of these well-heeled club members will repay McDermott with some campaign contributions. And someone is going to get a nice fat $500,000 renovation contract.

And this:

$250,000 divided by 1200 = $208.33 or $17.36 per month per member.

There are a lot of rich members, too. For most, this would be nothing. I’m sure they could have a few fundraisers too that would generate some cash.

Stuff like this is aggravating.

McDermott is a congressman, not a Senator. And he’s not mine, as his district covers a different part of Seattle area then where I live.

I don’t necessarily think that all earmarks are bad things, but this is just one I have a very hard time thinking is legitimate given the private nature of the club.

This is clearly public money being spent for historical preservation purposes. I would argue that most such purposes are wastes of government money, so I’m going to agree with you here while observing that this is no more egregious than any other use of public funds for historical preservation.

They did raise cash, they raised half.