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Emanuel's Earmark Curve Ball

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) today displayed his flair for political gamesmanship, releasing a list of two dozen 2008 budget "earmark" requests he has made to the House Appropriations Committee.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel
Rep. Rahm Emanuel puts his earmark cards on the table. (Getty Images)

Emanuel, who is No. 4 in the House Democratic leadership, unveiled the list this afternoon as a follow-up to the latest round of GOP allegations that Democrats are trying to hide the earmarks until after the House passes its version of the 12 spending bills passed annually to fund the government's operation.

Democrats have yielded to Republicans to some extent, agreeing to delay passing many of the appropriations bills until the more than 30,000 earmark requests have been vetted. Those that are approved will be included in most of the spending measures before they pass out of the House.

Republicans proclaimed this as a huge victory, but Emanuel's move today amounts to a schoolyard double-dog dare: If you want to claim you're so ethically clean and above board, why don't you release every earmark requested by Republican lawmakers?

"In the spirit of this effort to make the process more transparent, I am happy to make public today the complete list of meritorious projects for which I have requested federal help. I have never opposed the ability of Members of Congress to direct federal funds to vital programs and projects," Emanuel said. "But the taxpayers deserve to know where their dollars are being spent and that no hidden agendas are being served."

Earmarks are narrowly tailored spending requests drawn up at the urging of one lawmaker for one specific project, predominantly for spending inside a member's district or a senator's state. These "pork barrel" maneuvers, pioneered decades ago, have also wound up at the center of ethics scandals. Most famously, former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), a member of the Appropriations Committee before he pleaded guilty to accepting more than $2.4 million in bribes, created a bribery menu in which he laid out how much money he expected in return for multi-million-dollar earmarks.

Emanuel's earmark move may not sit well with some lawmakers (Democrats and Republicans alike) who are leery of releasing such information before a final decision has been made as to whether the projects will receive funding. To let constituents know you've made a request -- only to not succeed in securing the funding later on in the process -- could lead to political headaches about one's effectiveness as a member of Congress.

Capitol Briefing will take Emanuel at his word that these are all of his earmark requests. But one has to wonder about how many requests some lawmakers made to Appropriations. If all 435 members of the House asked for 24 earmarks, that would mean just 10,000 requests -- a third of the actual total, according to the committee.

And it's also worth noting that Emanuel did not include the dollar amount of each request he submitted to the committee. [UPDATE: After reading my post, Emanuel's office said they'd be happy to reveal dollar-for-dollar requests, totalling up to almost $175 million worth of funding asks of the Appropriations panel. Click here see the value of each earmark Emanuel is seeking, and, if private e-mails from staffers in the last 30 minutes were to serve as a Capitol Briefing focus group, the idea of complete sunshine on earmark requests is not sitting very well with Democrats or Republicans on Capitol Hill.]

That said, here's a hearty round of applause to the sunshine maneuver. Republicans, the ball is in your court.

By Paul Kane  |  June 18, 2007; 4:29 PM ET
Categories:  House , Purse Strings  
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Comments

Emanuel said in the press announcement describing his ear-mark requests that "the taxpayers deserve to know where their dollars are being spent and that no hidden agendas are being served". That seems a bold challenge to all members of Congress, not solely House leaders. Emanuel's press announcement is here: http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/il05_emanuel/APPROPS_2008.html

Posted by: Chris Baker | June 18, 2007 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Well done, Emanuel! This ought to be the standard operating procedure from here on -if you want to send the money to your district or State, then you have to let the rest of the country know what you're doing and why.
As long as you have got nothing to hide, ther's nothing to worry about.

Posted by: Patrick Huss | June 18, 2007 7:55 PM | Report abuse

I'm currently reading the book, "The Wrong Stuff" about the Cunningham scandal. If you don't think it's necessary for taxpayers to demand full disclosure of these earmarks, you should read it, too. I'm going to encourage all my elected officials to follow Emanuel's lead.

Posted by: Rick Heimann | June 19, 2007 6:34 AM | Report abuse

YEA ! ! Finally, someone in the Congress has stood up and put in plain view what he/she wants in markups. Now, if they would only go the next step and eliminate all markups. But that will probably be toomuch to ask.

Posted by: Chuck Swanson | June 19, 2007 6:48 AM | Report abuse

I could not have been more shocked nor more pleased. Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Henry | June 19, 2007 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I could not have been more shocked nor more pleased. Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Henry | June 19, 2007 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Swanson, Why would we want to eliminate earmarks altogether?

Posted by: Patrick Huss | June 19, 2007 11:02 AM | Report abuse

The voters in Emanuel's district should be applauding this bold move. As a Democrat I say THANK YOU and it's about time.

Posted by: Pat Davison, Ft Myers Beach, FL | June 19, 2007 11:45 AM | Report abuse

What R.E. did was what all democratic governments should do. Why is there no legal requirement for all of Congress to show their lists?
R.E. is part of the Dem. leadership, so he has a responsibility not only to put Republicans on the hot seat but to stand up to those in his own party and make them do as he has...and do it publically. Calling the Republicans out is one thing, taking the unpopular position, and maybe working with some anti-pork Republicans like McCain and others to change the rules is true leadership.
With the poll numbers of the Dem Congress also as low as Bush's one would think they would embrace true reform and grab the chance to be a solution to the Republican run disaster of the past 6 years...instead they just seem to be enjoying the same corruption that Republicans did. If they continue we should vote all the bums out in '08.

Posted by: John in NYC | June 19, 2007 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I am so proud of Mr. Emanuel. This is what our people are looking for. Honesty! We are fed up with the dancing around of answers, and the manipulation of words.
Just the honest facts please. Thank you Mr. Emanuel.

Mary Menard

Posted by: mary Menard | June 19, 2007 3:00 PM | Report abuse

I am so proud of Mr. Emanuel. This is what our people are looking for. Honesty! We are fed up with the dancing around of answers, and the manipulation of words.
Just the honest facts please. Thank you Mr. Emanuel.

Mary Menard

Posted by: mary Menard | June 19, 2007 3:00 PM | Report abuse

I am so proud of Mr. Emanuel. This is what our people are looking for. Honesty! We are fed up with the dancing around of answers, and the manipulation of words.
Just the honest facts please. Thank you Mr. Emanuel.

Mary Menard

Posted by: mary Menard | June 19, 2007 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I would hope that all politicians would pass a law requiring that ear marks be put into the sunshine so that one may see the amount of money that is just blown by these people. I would also like to see them explain how much a spending bill will cost to start and how much it will cost in 5 Years. Not sure we can afford these people, both partys.
Have a nice day!

Posted by: h1m912009 | June 19, 2007 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Congress should not forget the commitment the U.S. made towards the U.N. Millennium Goals (a pact of ending extreme world hunger by the year 2025) in 2000. According to The Borgen Project, an annual $19 billion dollars is needed to end world hunger by the year 2025. To my sense, it is almost unacceptable to have spent so far more than $340 billion in Iraq only, when we have more than war immunities to change the world and eliminate poverty.

Posted by: aileench | June 19, 2007 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Good decision Mr Emanual. Nancy Boyda (KS) also has released her earmarks for Kansas. Hopefully all of congress will begin doing the same thing.

Posted by: Keith | June 20, 2007 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Emmanuel's gesture is a nice step in the right direction. However, the first thing We need to do is stop calling these clowns "The Honorable Mr./Ms." until they actually earn the title. And secondly, the American citizen needs to admit to their taste for this "Pork". The money these earmarks bring to the home districts of our legislators translate into votes. Unfortunately, a lot of the money never reaches the actual project but rather ends up in the hands of the large campaign contributors. I know, where's the proof?
Hey, when the guy gets on TV and says "Those contributions don't impact my vote" and you believe him, you get what you deserve.

Posted by: jarhead33334 | June 20, 2007 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Sunshine is mandatory. Taxpayers should know where all the money goes, including black projects hidden because they are secret. There also needs to be a fresh look how the DHS is funding the "first class passenger" security check areas in airports - what happened to equality for all?

Posted by: NM Remote | June 20, 2007 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Sunshine is mandatory. Taxpayers should know where all the money goes, including black projects hidden because they are secret. There also needs to be a fresh look how the DHS is funding the "first class passenger" security check areas in airports - what happened to equality for all?

Posted by: NM Remote | June 20, 2007 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Hey Emmanuel, did you forget the earmarks for Israel? They come up each year like clockwork. And the Israel Defense Force, of which you use to be a member, could also use new weaponry for their ongoing land-grabbing schemes against the "insurgents" or "terrorists" of Palestine.
And did you include any earmarks for "Israel's embassy" at AIPAC? They're struggling mightily to buy more congresspeople and the legal support of the Israeli spies has become burdensome also.

Posted by: Doubtom | June 29, 2007 5:06 PM | Report abuse

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