January 14, 2008
The Pork King Keeps His Crown
The new earmark disclosure rules put into effect by Congress confirm the pre-eminence of Representative John Murtha at procuring eye-popping chunks of pork for contractors he helped put in business in Johnstown, Pa. The Pennsylvania Democrat, a power player on defense appropriations, exudes pride, not embarrassment, for delivering hundreds of millions of dollars in largesse to district beneficiaries. They, in turn, requite with hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations.
Mr. Murtha led all House members this year, securing $162 million in district favors, according to the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense. In all, eager members in both houses enacted 11,144 earmarks, worth $15 billion. Taxpayers may be inured to $113,000 for rodent control in Alaska or a million for Idaho’s weed management. Mr. Murtha’s universe is a far more complicated and costly creation of interlocking contractors who continue to feed at the public trough despite reviews questioning their performance.
The return on a direct-mail campaign might be 4 in 100--and those are just people who will respond, not necessarily buy. Las Vegas was built and thrives on a 1% advantage that pours in the bucks, but you have to actually build something and hire help and pay off the mafia.
Congress has no such limitations. A congressman or Senator is the cheapest business investment going. You give these thirsty little denizens of Washington politics a buck and they give you a thousand back.
Congressman John Murtha is the poster-child for winning the congressional lotto--and anyone can play. Got a struggling business?
1st you hire a lobbyist
2nd the lobbyist hires an elected official like Murtha
3rd you invest $10,000
4th you get a $10 million contract
End of struggle. That's what "hundreds of millions of dollars in largesse to district beneficiaries. They, in turn, requite with hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations" turns out to be--a 1,000/1 return on investment. And, as I have written many times before, it's not so much the corruption that's a surprise in our banana-republic form of government--it's how cheaply you can buy a guy like John Murtha. Congressmen and Senators have become all the rage--everyone ought to own one.