Sunday, March 19, 2006

Where Does the Money Go?

Hugh Hewitt had this exchange on his radio Show Last Friday.

HH = Hugh Hewitt - Radio Host
JC= John Campbell - Congressman for the 48th Congressional district, California

HH: I appreciate your flying back from D.C. to do this show, because now finally...I can talk with Dreier about the rules, but you're on Financial Services, you're on Veterans Affairs, and you're on the floor voting on these things, not yet in the leadership. And so, I am confounded, befuddled, by what happened this week on the spending stuff, and I want you to walk our people through. What is going...why are you people spending money like drunken sailors?

JC: I think it's actually just...I'm going to give you the conclusion before we get to it. We need a spending limit, and we need a line item veto. And I'm not sure that anything else is going to stop it, just because of the way that Congress works with individual...with so many members and so many interest groups. Let me just give you a few examples. I've been in Congress now just over 90 days. Not a long time, right?

HH: Right.

JC: Brand new guy. Just came in. Had 63 requests for earmarks.

HH: No.

JC: 63 requests. And they only had 60 days to get to me.

HH: Where do they come from?

JC: Everything from a number of private contractors looking for defense money. You know, we have this thing and it's really good, and it'd be great for the national defense. The Department of Defense unfortunately doesn't recognize that. So if you can get us $3 million or $4 million dollars, we can create this thing.

HH: Explain to people what an earmark is. I always make that mistake.

JC: Sorry. Okay, I've assumed that the listeners of the Hugh Hewitt show have been educated by you, but I guess not.

HH: I try, I try.

JC: All right. Okay.

HH: There are Pittsburgh Steeler fans listening.

JC: What an earmark is, is members of Congress and the U.S. Senate have the opportunity to direct specific money to something in their district. So rather than its...let's say you have a transportation bill, and it's got however many billion dollars in it, and it gets sent to the states to spend on transportation things. But let's say you want to do a particular transportation project in your district. You can earmark and say I want this $4 million dollars to go specifically to the interchange of the 5 and the 22 freeway. You know, whatever it may be. Something like that. So that's what earmarks are. Most of the earmarks requests I got were from public agencies. But I mean, you get things like that. The point is, is that the easiest way as a member of Congress to make friends is to spend money on people. And there's lots of opportunities to do that. I would say 80% of the meetings I've had in my office thus far have been people asking for money. Either earmarks or simply in the budget, make sure we increase this. Or in the budget, we need to put money for this. Or in the budget, we need to increase the money for this. And one of the things I've asked every single person that's come in thus far, is I've said you know, we have a budget issue. We have deficits. There' isn't endless, even for $2.7 trillion dollars, which is the federal budget amount, a finite number. You want us to spend $10 million on this. Could you bring me a suggestion of something we can spend $10 million less on, so that then, we can spend $10 million on the thing you want. And people kind of don't want to come in with that. But something I've been asking. But because of this whole...I mean, the number of people, constituents, non-constituents, whatever, that come and ask you for money is amazing. And it's frankly, it's hard to say no to everybody, to 80% of the people who come to see you. It's easy to say yes, and so that whole impetus creates...and that impetus times 535 people, members of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, creates a whole wave of wanting to spend more money on things. So that's basically, I think, what's making it happen, plus the reality of votes. You know, well, gee, I won't vote for the budget unless we increase this by $100 million, or that by $50 million, or that by $150...and you see that dynamic going on as well.

HH: I'm going to quote you, and Radioblogger's going to put up with interview. I've been in Congress a little more than 90 days, and I have received 63 requests for earmarks, is that correct?

JC: That is correct.

HH: What did they total? Are you keeping a running total?

JC: Actually, I didn't add up the numbers. It'd be in the hundreds of millions.

HH: That is just incredible.

The Complete Interview with mp3 sound clips can be found at

prying1 sez: John Campbell, near the beginning of this exchange said we need spending limits and the line item veto. That, and making it legal to whop these people over the head with rolled up newspapers. -

We really do need more people like John Campbell in the Congress and the Senate. Look for them in your neighborhood and help get them elected.

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