This doesn’t put the “new” in “news” but Russ Feingold supports a ban on earmark spending, the topic of a recent “brief and inconclusive” conversation among Congressional Democratic leaders.
Feingold has never requested an earmark, calling it “an unfortunate way to spend money,” so his support of a ban is no surprise. What would be a surprise is if House Appropriations Committee chair Dave Obey endorsed a ban. Obey has been bringing home the bacon to Wisconsin’s 7th CD for 40 years. However, Obey is facing a relatively legitimate challenger in Sean Duffy, mainly due to the anti-establishment political climate of the present. It may be in Obey’s best interests to sign on to a fiscally responsible bill banning earmarks, although that will lead to more accusations of hypocrisy on Obey’s part.
The Roll Call article addresses the possibility the idea could;
“Meet stiff resistance from some corners of the Democratic Caucus that cherish earmarks as…a political necessity in an increasingly hostile environment for incumbents. “
Yet the general public does not like the idea of earmarks. The next election is closer than the next pork barrel project, measured vote to ribbon cutting. A ban on earmarks would be great PR for a party often (and unfairly) accused of spendthrift policies.
A Congressional ban would also take the pressure off President Obama, who has failed to come through on a campaign pledge to reform earmarks. Republicans attacked mercilessly when the stimulus bill passed and will continue as long as federal budgets are laden with billions in wasteful, earmarked spending.
A ban on earmarks would be good policy and good politics comings together for Democrats.
Yesterday WisOpinion linked to a letter in the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune by Jeff Tyberg about term limits for Wisconsin legislators. The letter reluctantly proposed allowing longer terms for the Assembly and Senate (extending Assembly terms to four years and Senate terms to six) if total terms of office were capped at a single term. This is a terrible idea — for democracy and good government.
First, term limits already exist, as the author noted. After two and four years, members of the Assembly and Senate must win an election if they wish to return to their seat. If a constituent approves of the work their representative has done, the constituent most likely wants that representative to return to office. If the constituent disapproves, they will vote for someone else.
Second, unless Assembly elections were to be staggered (which would violate either the authors theory of a four year maximum term or create chaos when determining who gets serve a couple extra years without facing election), Wisconsin would have a brand new Assembly every four years. That is ninety-nine people in charge of drafting the budget and laws of the state who have zero experience doing so.
I understand Tyberg’s misgivings about lifelong politicians. His state and federal representatives have each been in office 40 years. But in the fall of every even-numbered year the people of these districts mark ballots in favor of their continued representation. Who is the government (don’t forget, term-limits would ultimately be imposed by the government) to decree a candidate (meeting age [another story] and residency requirements) invalid?
Tyberg himself has been a candidate for both the Assembly and Congress. Candidates have ran on platforms of term-limits before, and when that term was up, recanted their earlier declaration (I’m thinking specifically of Gil Gutknecht). Is it because once they became legislators, they realized the value a senior legislator provides their district? Possibly. Or maybe Tyberg is right and they are just corrupted by lobbyists. But lobbyists don’t vote, constituents do.
I’m not saying the system is perfect. Power comes from money and lobbyists have the money. I’ve written on the value of incumbency in an election, and it might not be fair.
I’ve got a lot more on this, but I just got word my laptop is up and running again so I’m going to get it. Regular updates return tonight!