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  • Morning Bell: 'Buying' House Votes for Unpopular Legislation

    An examination of “administrative earmarks” around the time of congressional votes on key pieces of President Obama’s agenda suggests the White House used its power to fund local projects as a means to “buy” votes for major legislative efforts.

    Administrative earmarking refers to the federal government’s allocation of funds from its discretionary budget for specific projects. The practice is less transparent than legislative earmarking, since, according to the Congressional Research Service, “[t]here is no source that defines and comprehensively identifies Administrative earmarks.”

    But an analysis of grants from agencies during the early years of the Obama administration shows that the districts of moderate Democrats, whose support was so crucial for Obama during the 111th Congress, received large sums right around the passage of three key pieces of legislation: Obamacare, Dodd-Frank financial regulations, and the cap-and-trade bill.

    During the run-up to votes in the House of Representatives for each of those pieces of legislation, the rate of administrative earmarking spiked. This chart shows the number of grants requested by 12 federal agencies, as documented at Grants.gov.

    The number of grants given by those agencies spiked precisely when the House was considering each of the three pieces of legislation.

    Even more troubling: during the same time periods, significant grant money went to the districts of numerous Democratic representatives who looked to face tough battles for re-election. The legislation Obama was attempting to get through Congress was generally unpopular, and vulnerable members needed other ways to appeal to constituents. Federal grants made for a perfect opportunity.

    Then-Rep. Chris Carney (D-PA), for instance, kept his support for Dodd-Frank quiet. His website never posted a press release announcing his “yes” vote on the bill. It did, however, tout two federal grants totaling $3.6 million for businesses in his district two days before the Dodd-Frank vote.

    Then-Rep. Zach Space (D-OH) hailed from a district reliant on the coal industry, which would have been hit particularly hard by cap and trade. He voted for the measure, but neglected to publicize the vote on his website. He did, however, announce eight federal grants totaling roughly $1.8 million all made during the month before the House passed cap and trade.

    At least 32 vulnerable House Democrats received significant federal grant money in the periods leading up to or directly after their votes on at least one of these three pieces of legislation (see charts below), raising concerns that those grants may have been used either to encourage or reward votes in favor of the administration’s position.

    The use of administrative earmarks to “buy votes” is not new. President Richard Nixon saw the practice as “a way to gain political support for Nixon’s re-election by using federal resources and grants to influence key states and voting blocs.”

    President Franklin Roosevelt was an early pioneer of the political use of administrative earmarking. He “deliver[ed] large defense projects to key states whose electoral votes he wanted to secure,” according to historian Burt Folsom.

    But while administrative earmarking is a practice used by nearly every administration, CRS found in a report published in April 2010 — immediately after the time period at issue — that “[b]oth the number and value of earmarks requested solely by the President increased since FY2008.” The number of earmarks had increased by 54 percent, CRS found, while the value of those requests had increased by a whopping 126 percent.

    The timing of those requests also suggests political factors at play. Heritage’s Hans von Spakovsky, a former Federal Elections Commissioner, said the administration’s actions “show how taxpayer funds are used for crass political purposes — it is a rank abuse of the government’s power and another sign of this administration’s lack of a moral compass.”

    While speculating on the motives of individuals responsible for these grants is difficult, this administration has a history of using its powers for political purposes. In the case of “vote-buying” in particular, the administration offered to expand Medicaid funding to residents of Louisiana and Nebraska to the tune of roughly $145 million to secure the votes of Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) for the Obamacare bill.

    Posted in Obamacare, Ongoing Priorities, Scribe [slideshow_deploy]

    51 Responses to Morning Bell: 'Buying' House Votes for Unpopular Legislation

    1. ThomNJ says:

      Thanks for the article – I continue to believe that ALL forms of earmarking should be illegal. If an idea or legislation has merit, then it ought to stand on its own. I also frown upon "omnibus" legislation – that also should not be. If by omnibus one includes legislation surrounding one subject, then that may be acceptable, but the idea that a bill can contain laws covering widely disparate subjects is despicable. That is one of the ways we got a homeowner sales tax that goes into effect in January 2013 – that was in the obamacare legislation.

      • ItsJo says:

        Agree with your post, and would add also that the elimination of "Lobbyists" is due also. The four lobbying sons of Harry Reid, Nv. comes to mind. These people All look to buy certain votes and have things(liike roads near Reid's land in Nv.) that benefit themselves. There is much wrong in these 'career
        politicos, that spread around favors in order to get votes, that give them a career in which they can "Steal, Lie and Amass their OWN personal fortunes". Enough with this corruption in D.C.-too much
        IS "pay to play" and Obama is best at handing out money, for votes.

    2. jaxon345 says:

      I live in Denver so naturally am a Tim Tebow fan. got another TBO for you "throw bums out". the whole process and the folks who run it make me sick. term limits will fix a lot of it. no more careers.

    3. toledofan says:

      Politics as usual has turned into the politics of corruption and this adminsitration seems to be ahead of the curve. It's too bad that the Democrats, in general, have no new ideas on fixing anything they've broken except to just thriow more money and more freebies to buy votes.

      • jack smith says:

        and the republicans are not involved? dont point fingers at democrats only, the whole lot of them are in on this. it will never change. why would they write legislation that curtails their decisions? term limits, my god, dream on, it has been discussed for decades, and it will Never get out of commitee. and if that miracle occurs, the vote will be a landslide against the legislation. the whole govt. are crooks, and continue to be. just like wall street, they continue to do the same things as before 2008, but on an even bigger scale. their wealth now, is three times what it was before 2008. the congress is infested with wall street, and the political intelligence, the shadow government, carries on. the money will and has always controlled, dont expect any different from the lot of them, senate, house, executive. they enjoy the benefits of laws they have created to line their pockets, or get certain legislation passed. they all know it, they r all dirty. u think people will vote them out for it, dream on, the political aspect is too convaluted to ever change this felonious behavior. the govt crowd, become millionaires. earmarks are another matter, laws passed to end them, are bypassed every day, breaking the very law the congress voted in by a landslide vote, only 3 votes against it. protect your family the best u can, cus the time is coming, when doing so,will be near impossible. thanks to all senators, house and prez. u r doing a bang up job of protecting the american people. No thanks!!

    4. Mary......WI says:

      I wonder how many souls of politicians Satan owns. This is a shameful act by both parties. This is not how a government for the people by the people should be carried out…….politicians appear to be lazy and oblivious with the correct way of carrying out the people's business…..seems they may have forgotten about we the people.

    5. JOHN PAUL JONES says:

      HISTORICALLY, you should have linked this to FDR. Obama is following FDR's plan for remaining in office. It is uncanny the similarity. Next will come another world war which we will be unprepared for once again.

    6. FreedomFighter says:

      The reason those 12 agencies are important is because those are the precise 12 agencies the GAO accused the Bush Administration of politicizing and they are on the GAO High-Risk list.

    7. Roger Crassi says:

      Enlightening? YES. Surprised? NO. Politics, in and of itself, is not corrupt. The corruption is to be found in the hearts of the politicians. Washington, D.C. is a cesspool of political corruption, and even those who want to stay clean are tainted by the smell.

    8. Dave Roberts says:

      A transparent administration, indeed! What on earth have we gotten ourselves into? Can you say "Chicago politics goes to Washington"? I'm sure our Founding Fathers are rolling over in their graves!

    9. Ken Jarvis says:

      Doesn't seem to be working.
      The GOP members of congress NEVER vote for anything that will BENEFIT AMERICANS.
      Oh, really? Name something.

      • ILUVConstitution says:

        Uh… not raising the debt ceiling, they in fact HAVE a budget passed (unlike your precious Dems who have not created nor voted on ANY BUDGET for over 3 years), Not allowing multiple unfunded tax increases (you can thank them later), NOT VOTING for OBAMA CARE (sorry that you are too struck by the ManChild that you cannot yet see just how severely ObamaCare (VOTED by your precious Dems) will HURT AMERICANS (especially you)… I could go on but it probably would not do any good – you are a lost soul….

    10. Chicago style politics the Obama way: Lie, Cheat, Bribe!!

    11. ladydi57 says:

      I do not see John Salazar from CO in this list. I live in his former district and prior to the healthcare vote this area got millions in airport grants. Would love to see that investigated! (CO 3rd district)

    12. Gramma says:

      I have been wondering about all of the grants being awarded in Maine at this time. Rep. Mike Michaud has an opponent, and Olympia Snowe has two R's and 3 D's, I believe.
      Wonder about the "Wellness" program being tried in 7 different counties throughout the country, with Somerset County in ME being one, and it is funded by the Recovery Act of 2009–providing free wellness to employees in businesses with 500 or less and to which the businesses have to comply with certain measures, including allowing the workers to participate during normal work hours. So, essentially, the taxpayers will be funding hours of exercise, meeting with doctors, etc. Hardly seems right to me.

    13. Greg Miller says:

      Nice work Heritage. Already posted!

    14. azwayne says:

      That's just common practice in DC. Lobbyists agency makes no difference all legislation is paid for with blood money. There are NO morals or rules in DC. We need one large sweeping cleanser.

    15. Wayne Peterkin says:

      A disturbing and well researched report. We should not be surprised. Vote buying and vote trading has been a time-honored tradition in our government that has only gotten worse over time. Considering the crony capitalism and downright corruption in our current government, especially within the White House, I would have expected this. I will personally advocate for a real change this November. It is far past time that America looks to honorable people for government service and consistently replace the dishonorable, an ideal that may be too much to hope for.

    16. Daryn Kent-Duncan says:

      Until and unless the government and the economy are separated (as Church and State have been separate) as the Constitution intended, there will be no change. No cut, cap, balance will do it. The government has too much power, and as long as they have it, they will use it. There is absolutely no reason for the government to be involved in the economy — FREE means Free, as in Free Markets — and every reason for them not to be involved.

    17. Obama and the democrats are hypocritical pandering thugs!!

    18. gary smothers says:

      These white collar criminals will never relent until the imposition of term limits. Since these people willnot relinquish power and return to the precepts of the constitution the people in the end are left with only force to regain control of our government. The power circle within the beltway are aware of the coming day. Look around you. Six regions building empty prisons. Hundred of thousands of three corpse plastic coffins already placed at the ready and still in production. The passage of law authorizing the arrest and detention of u.s. citizens without a warrent or hearing. The us of the military within u.s. borders. All specifically prohibited by the constitution. Lastly note this, all of these items enjoy bi-partisan supply. For all of those regardless of party are joined at the hip to retain power. Including flying bullets to make it so. Why are you talking about anything else other than preparing for those coming days.

    19. Lloyd Scallan says:

      Let's not forget that not only the House is guilty of "earmarks" (bribes). The voters of Louisiana will certainly not forget their Democrat Senator Mary Landrieu accepted $300 million to vote yes on ObamaCare.

    20. Judith in Michigan says:

      In reference to one of today's "quick hits" showing that a record number, 49.5%, of US citizens don't pay any federal income tax. As I recently read from an anonymus source, isn't that "Representation without Taxation?" Since I AM a taxpayer, am I getting as fair a representation as a non-paying citizen?

    21. Spank_Bottom says:

      If this occurred in the private sector folks would be investigated, arrested, charged, prosecuted, and paraded around the media as the government cracking down on fraud, Rico statutes, and probably create some law against it. In the political class….not so much.. business as usual, no crime here, move along folks rules and laws only apply to you working stiffs. Be forwarned if you working stiffs try this at home…jail time for you especially if you're a conservative !!!

    22. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck….

    23. Dale says:

      Need to move your charts to the left as the last column not legible. Also, an explanation of your ratings R+2 or D+4 would be helpful!

    24. Lou says:

      It comes as no surprise that this president and this administration used bribes to get these awful pieces of legislation passed! Obama's campaign rhetoric of 2008 really illustrates his cynicism and facile tongue: hope and change were utterly meaningless to him.

    25. Marty says:

      At least Obama has come true on his one promise – transparancy. He has made this practice so abundant and obvious that it is transparent by default!

    26. Larry Jansen says:

      NO earmarks should be allowed!

    27. wallyblu says:

      They're not earmarks they're called buying votes.

    28. Gilbert Doan says:

      Why, I'm shocked. SHOCKED!

    29. JBinGB says:

      Donate to Scott Walker in Wisconsin SAVE the U S A

    30. Greg says:

      Between this story and insider trading, these people could care less about the regular folks. I am so glad that we are paying for salary, pension and benefits. What a joke.

    31. mcy - Washington, DC says:

      MCY – Washington, DC Anyone who has ever lived in Chicago knows this system very well! And Please, please never make DC a State. If could only be the state of corruption and governed by chaos. There is so much wasted and stolen money in DC Government that should make us all shudder.

    32. Donald DaCosta says:

      This is why the earmarking process must be ended, should have been ended long ago, however reluctantly, by a Congress wedded to the process. Republican, Democrat and Independent Congressmen go to Washington intending to get funding for pet projects for their individual districts and favorite supporters. For this they cannot be blamed but local projects need to be funded by locally generated revenue and many of these funded by the earmarking process are not intended to satisfy constituents but special interests in the so called "good old boys club" and would not pass muster by the locals who are forced to foot the bill.

      The problem here is that those who are addicted and receive the greatest benefit are those with the authority to change the process. As long as the so called establishment politicians remain numerous enough to foil passage of any effective legislation, it's not going to happen which becomes ever more obvious as this ear mark charade continues interminably. These establishment types need to be voted out but who's paying attention?

    33. PatriotAR15 says:

      "There is no native American criminal class – except Congress." – Mark Twain. Enough said!

    34. DocJohnM says:

      Obama thinks he's the king but it unhappily seems he's the king of earmarks. The worst of the worst of graft is his claim to fame. He buys votes, twists arms and sends in his goons to convince congressmen and women to do his bidding. How sad this is what our government is reduced to. We the people are completely left out of the mix. I write letters, make phone calls and fax notes and the response I receive, my congresswomen disagree with me and will vote according to how they feel, a congressional slap in the face.

    35. DocJohnM says:

      My Congresswomen to whom I write letters, send faxes and make phone calls make it abundantly clear that they disagree with my point of view and will vote according to how they feel. Pres. Obama controls the demoncratic party it seems with an iron fist, earmarks and all. In my estimation, earmarks are just too easily construed as graft and should be done away with.

    36. Richard Ahern says:

      The Washington Establishment is out of touch with the American people. In a so called free society,the people are entitled to decide the system by which government should operate-not academicians, politicians or special interests. Two things that do not appear in the Constitution. (law of the Land) Democracy or Socialism. We are a Constitutional Republic. All Branches have ignored the US Constitution.

      TAKE BACK OUR GOVERNMENT-NOW! Be informed http://www.wastewatchersinc.org http://www.judgenap.com

    37. Larry W says:

      The Obama Administration no longer surprises Conservatives. House Republicans passed an earmarks moratorium bill in August 2010…maybe. Term limits, a consumer tax (like we have in Florida and 10 other states) Stop AND Repeal ObamaCare…Stop and Repeal Obama; if our Republic lasts that long.

    38. Irmgard Fitzgerald says:

      It is unbelieveable how corrupt the White House is and what they will do to get their way. Help us God if people will be so stupid and vote Obama back in.

    39. C. Hyatt says:

      No way. Are you kidding me. Corruption in Washington? Really? No, Really?

    40. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      Obama uses Chicago politics.

    41. haroldson says:

      the dems know they are crooked, they know they are ruining the country, They also don't care because they are getting fat and rich while the working class suffer, Give them a free pass to unemployment.

    42. m puffer says:

      The attached graph should be used by a prosecutor as exhibit #1. The prosecution should start with Obama and work its way down through all the weasels that sold out their constituents for a few pieces of silver.

    43. tenguage says:

      The government has it's "Cosa Nostra" and it is time to rid this country of Gangster Politics!! When team USA is losing, it's time to fire the coach, then start eliminating the members of congress who allowed this to happen. And how do you discern the sheep from the wolves? Follow Heritage Foundation's information.

    44. Michelle says:

      Does anybody know what ethics means? How about morals? Could someone please tell me they have gone and when it became the norm to screw any and eveyone to get what you want?

    45. tclehner says:

      Interesting now they are asking that question wether or not Obama bought votes for ObamaCare – I mentioned that in my blogs already in 2010 and told already in 2010 Obama's vote shopping is criminal bribery and money laundry – I guess some high profile "Columnists" need a little longer to figure that out

    46. Daezy says:

      What a great piece! The criminals should be prosecuted. If America does not hold these criminals accountable, we lose more than money.

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