Dr. Coburn Says Shutting Down Earmark Favor Factory' Key to Post-Abramoff Reforms
U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) today called on Senate and House leaders from both parties to make the elimination of earmarking, or pork politics, the centerpiece of any reforms considered in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal. Abramoff has described the appropriations committees, and, by extension, the appropriations process, as an "earmark favor factory" in which influence and votes are bought and sold.
"Congress does not need to reform the lobbying industry as much as it needs to reform itself. The willingness of politicians to abuse the appropriations process through earmarking has caused the explosive growth in the lobbying industry and encouraged the excesses illustrated by the Jack Abramoff scandal. It is not enough for our leaders to propose reforms that might promote the appearance, but not necessarily the practice, of ethical behavior," Dr. Coburn said.
"For the American people, the Abramoff scandal is only beginning to connect the dots between politicians, individual earmarks, lobbyists and campaign contributions. Behind each of the 14,000 earmarks Congress approved last year is a story that many politicians will not want their constituents to hear. If Congress fails to enact meaningful reforms that attack this climate of corruption at its source the public will, and should, take reform into its own hands in November.
"Pork politics is not an ancient practice that can't be reformed. Pork as we know it today didn't exist 20 years ago. As the majority party, my fellow Republicans have to make a choice - our majority or our pork," Dr. Coburn said.
In 1987, President Ronald Reagan vetoed a spending bill because it contained 121 earmarks. The number of earmarks approved by Congress grew to 1,439 in 1995. Last year, Congress approved 13,998 earmarks.