Our View: Ed’s Earmarks

March 22, 2012

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Lakewood)

When is an earmark not an earmark?  Apparently when Ed Perlmutter is the one doing the asking.

Wikipedia defines an earmark as “a legislative provision that directs approved funds to be spent on specific projects.”  The infamous “bridge to nowhere,” a $50 million indoor rainforest in Iowa, and a curious half-million dollar pedestrian bridge for animals that then-Rep. Mark Udall secured are all examples of the age-old practice, and why it was theoretically outlawed by Congress a few years ago.

But the tradition seems to be alive and well – at least in Congressman Ed Perlmutter’s office.

According to the Denver Post, Ed Perlmutter sent letters to congressional bigwigs requesting nearly $3 billion in federal funding for everything from renewable energy programs to space vehicles.

Which is why it was curious (although hardly surprising) to see that the story’s author, left-wing Capitol Hill blogger Allison Sherry, presented Perlmutter’s earmark requests as some sort of folksy, romantic Mr. Smith-like dedication to public service.

“Ed Perlmutter is fighting for federal funding the old fashioned way” Sherry pined, by “sen[ding] off four letters” asking that billions of dollars be steered to projects that benefit, for example, aerospace giant Lockheed and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in his district.

Sherry was decidedly less charitable to Ken Buck two years ago, however, when she slammed the then-GOP Senate nominee for request[ing] at least $5 million in earmarks and grants for Weld County projects, despite signing a national ‘no earmarks’ pledge and repeatedly railing against the pork-barrel practices while campaigning.”

So Ken Buck is a pork-barreling earmarker when he asks for $5 million for local projects.  But when Ed Perlmutter asks for nearly $3 billion, he’s just being old-fashioned.  Got it?

To be clear, we don’t begrudge Mr. Perlmutter for seeking the earmarks, nor do we broadly oppose the practice itself.

Not all earmarks are bad, and there is nothing inherently corrupt about the people’s elected representatives making choices about how the people’s money ought to be spent.

What we do begrudge, however, is the attempt by Mr. Perlmutter – and his enthusiastic accomplice in Ms. Sherry – to try and disguise what is really going on here.

If writing a letter to House Leadership asking them to fund your pet-projects doesn’t qualify as requesting an earmark, what does?

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