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Two Faces of Earmarks

With the annual appropriations season slowly coming to life on the Hill, members of Congress are once again confronting more news stories about what has become a hot-button issue -- earmarks.

Wading through all the press releases in his inbox this morning, Capitol Briefing was struck by the starkly different ways two prominent House Democrats -- Reps. John Murtha (Pa.) and Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) -- are dealing with the media's scrutiny.

The first approach comes from Murtha, the chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on Defense who is known for his opposition to the Iraq war and, more famously, for his porking prowess. Republicans have been gleefully e-mailing transcripts and video of this CBS Evening News story that aired Friday night:

The CBS segment notes that Murtha has snagged more than $600 million in earmarks for his district in the last four years and more than $2 billion since 1992. The report also said that some of his earmarks have gone to questionable or possibly non-existent companies and that "every private entity" that got an earmark from Murtha gave him a campaign contribution.

None of that information is new; all of it has been reported before in one form or another. But the evening news is still seen by millions of viewers (even if CBS is in third place in the ratings), bringing the tale of Murtha's pork to lots of people who didn't know about it before. And most importantly, the segment says Murtha, who makes no apologies for earmarking and once derided an ethics reform bill as "total crap," declined to do an interview for the story (the segment shows Murtha's office door being closed in front of the CBS camera).

On to example two: In between GOP releases on the Murtha story, Capitol Briefing received this missive from Emanuel's office. Titled, "Emanuel Announces FY 2009 Earmark Requests," the release lays out all of the Democratic Caucus chairman's requests along with justifications for each one (though no specific dollar totals*), citing Emanuel's "personal effort to bring more transparency and accountability to the earmark process."

Now, these differing approaches don't mean that Murtha's earmarks are corrupt while Emanuel's are pure as the driven snow. Nor is Emanuel the only lawmaker to publicize his requests, since many members like to drum up good local press. But the contrast between the two illustrates that old-school members like Murtha are increasingly proving to be the exception to the rule. In the current media environment, it is getting tougher and tougher for lawmakers to keep their backroom dealings behind closed doors. Or off the evening news.

*UPDATE: Though this press release does not include specific dollar totals for Emanuel's earmark requests, his office is providing those numbers to reporters who ask for them.

By Ben Pershing  |  April 7, 2008; 4:49 PM ET
Categories:  Ethics and Rules , Purse Strings  
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We all hate earmarks unless, of course, we benefit from them.
Emmanuel's approach seems like a clever strategy. He is preempting negative spin by publicly justifying his requests at the same time he is bragging about the bacon he is bringing home to his constituents. I, for one, hope it is a strategy we see more lawmakers employ.
As for Murtha, well it is hard to shame a man for taking care of his constituents. Since they are the ones who both benefit from his "largesse" and decide whether he retains his office, I can't imagine that he would view the CBS story as a bad thing.

Posted by: Patrick Huss | April 7, 2008 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Hey Ben you want to talk about Earmarks,do
you? Then why did you Fail to list the Big
Million Dollar One Con Artist Cocaine User
Pathological Liar Fraud Barack Obama got
for his wife Michelle Obama's hospital
where she works and how that got that hate
speech Michelle Obama a couple hundred
thousand dollars raise why don't you
Ben? In other words put up or shut up ok?

Posted by: Claudine | April 7, 2008 11:54 PM | Report abuse

Wow. She really told you Ben. In a very intelligent and articulate way, too.

Posted by: Patrick Huss | April 8, 2008 12:49 AM | Report abuse

Ben you need to learn how to research your
stories before you write them,as Claudine
nailed you real real good on that very clear failure and I agree Barack Obama
is a lying crooked total corrupt phony two
bit Chicago dirty politcal hack and his]
shady dealings with Chicago Slumlord Pal
Tony Rezko prove it as does the Earmarks
for Obama's ugly hateful wife Michelle Obama employers. Go back to Journalism
School and read the text books and pay
close attention to the lectures,will you?

Posted by: Sandy | April 8, 2008 7:29 AM | Report abuse

Hmmmm. Mewonders if Sandy and Claudine aren't possibly the same person. They certainly have similar rhetorical idiosyncrocies. Not to mention a burning hatred for Obama and his family.
Ladies, this was an article comparing the legislative stylings of Emmanuel and Murtha. Not an expose on the evils of earmarks. While Ben is busy revisiting journalism school perhaps the "two" of you could return to primary school to work on your reading comprehension and your plays-well-with-others skills.

Posted by: Patrick Huss | April 8, 2008 10:49 AM | Report abuse

If you don't like Barack, you're a racist. Plain and simple. What a great country

Posted by: Tony Rezko | April 8, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

What about Democrat Madame Speaker Nutso
Nancy Pelosi's Own Earmarks? And do include
that nice big fat DOD contract Pelosi got
for her worthless son's company as well...
And while speaking of Nancy Pelosi why hasn't ICE raided her family vineyards,
resort hotels and fancy restaurants for
Illegal Aliens too now then? There you go
Ben new topic for you to look into pal.

Posted by: Sandy5274 | April 9, 2008 1:31 AM | Report abuse

Murtha and people like him are the problem with government. Kill earmarks and we kill the careers of idiots like him.
Plain and simple.
But the people won't do that they all want something for nothing. Nice American way we are fostering.

Posted by: nightwing003 | April 9, 2008 8:17 AM | Report abuse

So face it folks the only way to ever clean
up our totally corrupt US Congress and stop
things like earmarks,is simply Vote the
Rascals Out! And yes I do mean every bloody
Incumbent Democrat and Republican in Congress today. And say no to Bush Lite aka
Senator John McCain and Phony Pathological
Liar Barack Hussein Obama and Hillary Clinton too,and vote for a Third Party
President,or did all of you forget already
how Democrat Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her
phony Democrats lied to us in 2006 about
cleaning up the mess in Washington and about getting our troops home from Iraq?
And did you forget all the Republicans are
sounding like Wind Up Toy Bush & Cheney
Robots as well? Throw the Bums Out!

Posted by: Sherry Kay | April 9, 2008 10:13 AM | Report abuse

It is about time that we shine the light of truth in the halls of congress.

Posted by: Michael Chavers | April 9, 2008 10:35 AM | Report abuse

You bet we need to Shine a huge Searchlight
on the shady doings in Congress and also on
the equally sleazy and shady deals by both
Democrat National Chairman Howard Dean and
Madame Speaker Nancy Pelosi attempting to
steal the 2008 Democratic Presidential
Nomination for their pet errand boy that
phony Barack Hussein Obama as Obama and
Stooges used the same sleazy tactics to
get himself elected an IL State Senator as
well. So you bet eliminate all earmarks is
only the begining to clean and drain the
swamp we call Washington DC and Politics.

Posted by: Sandra | April 9, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

So Ben it looks like you sure do need to do
better research on your stories instead of
rushing to the computer keys as the facts as was already repeatedly pointed out to
you by several posters that these goofy
Looney Toons Nancy Pelosi Democrats are just as power happy and earmark crazy as
the Bush and Cheney Republicans and that
I agree Nancy Pelsoi and Howard Deans clear
blattant attempt to rig the 2008 Democratic
Presidential Nomination for Barack Obama
is an insult to all American voters,and that includes this Independent Voter as well. I say Nancy Pelosi And Howard Dean
need to shut up and let the voters decide
who wins the Presidency in 2008.

Posted by: Ralphinphnx | April 9, 2008 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Nope Sandy and Claudine are not one person,
as actually we are sisters and we damn sure
think alike when it comes to that lying
cocaine addict pathetic loser Barack Obama!
So you bet Sandy and Claudine ask you to
just vote NO to Barack Hussein Obama or
did you really want Speaker Nancy Pelosi
for Obama's Vice President? And Howard Dean
as Sec of State and Windsurfer John Kerry
as Sec of Defense and good old Democrat
Congressman "Cold Cash" Jefferson as the
Sec of Treasury and Chicago Slumlord pal
Tony Rezko as Sec of Housing and Urban
Development? And "Uncle" (Rev) Jerimiah
Wright sleeping in the Lincoln Bedroom!

Posted by: Sandy | April 9, 2008 11:47 PM | Report abuse

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