On the Joseph Ashby Show, United States Representative Mike Pompeo appeared on August 7, 2014, two days after primary election day. Bob Weeks is the guest host. We discuss the primary election and what’s ahead for the United States Congress in the upcoming months.
The contest in the Kansas fourth district is a choice between principle and political expediency, and between economic freedom and cronyism.
While some news articles and political columns have described the contest for Republican Party nomination for United States House of Representatives between Todd Tiahrt and Mike Pompeo as a yawner, as between two candidates with few and only minor distinguishing positions — there are important differences. The press is starting to notice.
In the Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel made the case for this contest’s importance as a bellwether of Republican sentiment:
A big decision comes Tuesday in the Kansas GOP primary. The Sunflower State is in the throes of political upheaval, with most of the attention on the fortunes of Gov. Sam Brownback and Sen. Pat Roberts. But the race that may say far more about the direction of the GOP is taking place in Wichita, the state’s Fourth District, in the standoff between Rep. Mike Pompeo and challenger Todd Tiahrt.
The 50-year-old Mr. Pompeo — an Army veteran, Harvard Law grad and businessman — was elected in the 2010 tea party surge, with a particular focus on liberating private enterprise. He’s made a name for himself as a leader in the fight to end corporate welfare and pork, and to cut back on strangling regulations. (Potomac Watch: A Crony Capitalism Showdown, August 1, 2014)
(If the above link does not work for you because you don’t have a subscription to the Wall Street Journal, click here.)
After detailing some legislative activity and accomplishment, Strassel notes the difficulty that fighters for economic freedom encounter: “Such principles are precisely what conservative voters claim to demand from their representatives. Yet the antisubsidy line has hardly been an easy one, even in conservative Kansas — which collects its share of federal largess. And Mr. Tiahrt knows it.”
Concluding her column, Strassel outlines the choice that so many writers have failed to realize:
The choice voters fundamentally face on Tuesday is whether they want a congressman who works to get government smaller for everyone and to end corporate welfare, or a congressman who grabs what he can of big government to funnel to his district, and embraces crony capitalism. The latter is a return to the unreformed GOP, a groove plenty of Republicans would happily slide back into — if only voters gave the nod. We’ll see if Kansas conservatives do.
Another example of the difference between the two candidates is the Export-Import Bank. Conservative groups are urging that Congress not reauthorize the bank, a vote that will happen soon. The most common argument is that it harms American jobs, and there are allegations of corruption in its operations.
While in Congress, Pompeo voted against the reauthorization of the bank. He has said he would vote against its reauthorization again unless there is significant reform. Tiahrt, on the other hand, voted in favor of the Export-Import Bank. It’s representative of the type of cronyism he has supported while in office, and would likely support again, especially as his positions tack to the political left.
Finally, Tiahrt has recently criticized Charles Koch and Americans for Prosperity, leading us to wonder if Tiahrt understands or embraces the principles of economic freedom and free markets.
Two years ago United States Senator Pat Roberts voted in committee with liberals like John Kerry, Chuck Schumer, and Debbie Stabenow to pass a bill loaded with wasteful corporate welfare.
The Wall Street Journal noticed a vote made by Senator Roberts in committee that lead to the fiscal cliff bill . The newspaper explained the harm of this bill in its editorial:
The great joke here is that Washington pretends to want to pass “comprehensive tax reform,” even as each year it adds more tax giveaways that distort the tax code and keep tax rates higher than they have to be. Even as he praised the bill full of this stuff, Mr. Obama called Tuesday night for “further reforms to our tax code so that the wealthiest corporations and individuals can’t take advantage of loopholes and deductions that aren’t available to most Americans.”
One of Mr. Obama’s political gifts is that he can sound so plausible describing the opposite of his real intentions.
The costs of all this are far greater than the estimates conjured by the Joint Tax Committee. They include slower economic growth from misallocated capital, lower revenues for the Treasury and thus more pressure to raise rates on everyone, and greater public cynicism that government mainly serves the powerful.
Republicans who are looking for a new populist message have one waiting here, and they could start by repudiating the corporate welfare in this New Year disgrace. (Crony Capitalist Blowout: A tax increase for everyone but the favored wealthy few. January 4, 2013)
The Journal took the rare measure of calling out the senators who voted for this bill in committee, as shown in its nearby graphic. There it is: Pat Roberts voting in concert with the likes of John Kerry, Chuck Schumer, and Debbie Stabenow.
If Tom Coburn of Oklahoma could vote against this bill in committee, then so could have Pat Roberts. But he didn’t.
The investigation of a candidate for United States Senator by an appointed board in Kansas raises questions of propriety, and Senator Pat Roberts’ use of it in advertising is shameful.
If you’ve paid attention to television advertisements in Kansas, you probably are aware that United States Senate Candidate Dr. Milton Wolf has come under investigation by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts. His act that lead to this investigation was posting anonymous X-rays on Facebook.
The campaign of Pat Roberts is spending mightily to make sure Kansans are aware of the investigation, which was launched just two seeks for an election. That is more than a little troubling. That’s because Roberts’ campaign manager is a former journalism professor, Leroy Towns. I’m sure he knows that “being under investigation” and “found in violation” are two very different things. He probably taught that to his journalism students in North Carolina. But as executive campaign manager for Pat Roberts — well, it seems a different standard applies.
(For what it’s worth, after serving in the United States Marines, Pat Roberts was a newspaper publisher in Arizona before he moved to Washington. I guess that’s sort of like a journalist.)
This matter is especially important because the investigation of Dr. Wolf is political to the extreme. It was announced two weeks before the election.
I received an email message from a Kansas political observer that explains. The Anne Hodgdon mentioned below describes herself as a “political strategist and advocate” and is a major campaign donor to Roberts.
Bob, I’m sure you probably know this, but in case you don’t: Did you know Anne Hodgden is on the Kansas Board of Healing Arts? I think the timing of the board’s decision to look into Wolf is pretty transparent.
Shouldn’t [Kansas Governor Sam] Brownback be held accountable for his appointees using boards’ power politically? It’s maddening.
It’s no wonder good candidates won’t or don’t run. They have to worry about people like Anne Hodgdon using their political power to ruin their careers. It’s despicable. I am repulsed that this sort of thing is acceptable.
I’m repulsed, too, and saddened that a senior United States Senator uses this tactic in his campaign.
Todd Tiahrt has criticized Congressman Mike Pompeo for missing votes this month. But when Tiahrt was campaigning for the United States Senate while also serving in the House of Representatives, he missed a lot of votes.
From July to September 2010, Tiahrt missed 76 of 151 votes. That’s missing 50.3 percent, which placed him in the 99th percentile for missing votes during those months. Data is from govtrack.us.
Tiahrt has made a point of mentioning a specific vote that Pompeo missed, on July 10 for H.R. 4923: Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015. During Monday’s debate on KWCH Television, Tiahrt said “We also need to stop the regulations on farmers. The one opportunity that Mr. Pompeo had to do something for farmers was during the energy and water appropriations bill. and he was absent that day. He abandoned his post. And because of that, farmers are going to be facing the EPA and increased water regulations, what is going to hurt the family farmers.”
Later in the debate Tiahrt repeated his assertion that because of Pompeo’s missed vote on H.R. 4923, farmers will face increased regulation on puddles and stock ponds.
To the extent that this bill protects farmers from “onerous” regulations, the bill passed by a vote of 253 to 170, with Republicans voting 218 to 11 in favor of the bill.
Curiously, a Tiahrt campaign press release refers to proposed regulations known as Waters of the US (WOTUS). But H.R. 4923, the bill whose vote Tiahrt criticized Pomepo for missing, did not affect these proposed rules.
When the American Hospital Association decided to support one of the candidates for United States Senator from Kansas, the chosen candidate, Pat Roberts, took pride in the endorsement. And, who wouldn’t be proud? American hospitals? Who isn’t in favor of good hospitals for Americans?
As it turns out, AHA is a special interest group. It is a major spender on lobbying and campaign contributions. It is a major supporter of Obamacare.
Through 2013, AHA has spent $259,067,349 on lobbying. It lobbies in favor of its members and against potential competitors, such as doctor-owned hospitals. Reporting on an aspect of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) that prevents doctor-owned hospitals from participating in Medicaid if they expand, the Weekly Standard remarked: “This little-noticed but particularly egregious aspect of Obamacare is, by all accounts, a concession to the powerful American Hospital Association (AHA), a supporter of Obamacare, which prefers to have its member hospitals operate without competition from hospitals owned by doctors.”
That’s right. The American Hospital Association also supported Obamacare. Anti-competitive measures like this were part of the price to get AHA’s support. Now, AHA has decided that Pat Roberts will best represent its interests in Washington.
AHA also makes contributions directly to candidates. Interestingly, the largest recipient of AHA campaign funds is Rod R. Blagojevich. He used to be the governor of Illinois, but he recently relocated to Littleton, Colorado. There he’s also known as inmate number 40892-424, with an anticipated release date of May 23, 2024.
With the decision of United States Senator Pat Roberts to skip debates with his opponents, Kansans are deprived of a useful part of the political process.
Election campaigns are an essential element of representative democracy. Campaigns are simultaneously a means for those who seek elective office to connect with voters and a way for citizens to learn about the candidates who are seeking their votes. Political campaign debates are an integral component of the modern political campaign. … Voters have come to expect election debates, particularly in the race for the president of the United States but increasingly for other elective offices as well. (Political Election Debates: Informing Voters about Policy and Character, William L. Benoit)
With the decision of United States Senator Pat Roberts to skip debates with his opponents, Kansans are deprived of a useful part of the political process.
This decision makes sense on only one level, that being the preservation and promotion of Pat Roberts’ political career. Evidently he and his political advisers have decided that he can win the primary election without the candidate participating in one or more debates.
But Roberts’ career and his electoral prospects are not relevant public policy.
That Roberts won’t debate is rich in irony. In his reporting of Roberts’ decision to skip debates with his main opponent Dr. Milton Wolf, Steve Krake wrote “Roberts is a Marine who portrays himself as willing to stand up to anybody. But he won’t stand up to Wolf, whose feisty, upstart campaign has given the incumbent headaches from the start.” (Steve Kraske: Sen. Pat Roberts won’t debate Milton Wolf)
Another element of irony is that the United States Senate is often described using phrases like “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” partly due to its tradition of allowing unlimited, or lengthy, debate. Roberts has served in that body for nearly 18 years and wants another term.
It’s also curious that Roberts would turn down debate opportunities. He has a reputation as a quick wit when speaking.
Even more curious, when you engage the Roberts campaign on inconsequential issues — such as whether campaign manager Leroy Towns lives in Kansas or North Carolina — you’ll get a quick response.
But ask a substantive question using the same communication channel, and there’s no answer. An example question is whether the senator will support the authorization of the Export-Import bank. That’s an important issue, one which the senator dodges, and about which he might be asked in a debate.
Debates are probably stressful events for most candidates, I’m sure. That’s part of their value. Put the candidates in front of a skeptical and inquisitive audience (the debate moderators) and a critical audience (the debate opponent), and see what happens when candidates are stressed a bit.
Speaking of stress: Roberts has made the ability of a senator to stand up to stress a campaign issue. In a profile this week in the Kansas City Star, Roberts criticized an incident from his opponent’s past, saying “Send him to Washington and see how stressed he gets.”
Roberts’ decision to skip a useful ritual of American politics may lessen his stress level and advance his personal political career. But it disrespects Kansas voters.
The case of a Kansas Congressman benefiting from earmark spending once out of office should make us glad the practice has ended, and we should be wary of those who call for its return.
The case of United States House of Representatives Appropriations Committee Member Todd Tiahrt and Neumann Systems is an illustration of the revolving door between government and the private sector. It started with an earmark. An Air Force budgetary document indicates that the earmark spending was at the direction of Congress: “In FY 2006, Congress added $1.2 million for the High Power Fiber Laser Program, and $0.5 million for Oxygen Laser Optical Source.”
Later in the same document we see “CONGRESSIONAL ADD.” So it’s not like the Air Force asked for this money. Instead, it was added by appropriators in the House of Representatives, of which Todd Tiahrt was a member and appropriator. The oxygen laser spending was an earmark, in other words. It went to a company called Direct Energy Solutions, located in Colorado Springs. Its CEO was David Neumann, who also heads a related company named Neumann Systems Group, Inc.
While this may seem like a small amount of federal money spent on a defense research project, the earmark spending appears to have paid off for Tiahrt. Not only did Tiahrt receive contributions from Neumann for his campaigns both past and present, he also received a client for his consulting firm and, ultimately, a job. When Neumann needed to recover from an illness, Tiahrt worked for Neumann’s company and was paid some $380,000 over two years, according to financial disclosures.
Neumann System Groups had received a contract to build an exhaust gas scrubber for an electrical power plant owned by the City of Colorado Springs. The scubber is controversial. In this article from January 2013, Tiahrt said the scubber would removs sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, but the scubber that is being built will remove only the sulfur compound. Costs seem to have soared over original estimates. The contract is “cost plus” and according to reporting, was awarded without competitive bid. (Costs, doubts rise at Colorado Springs power plant, Colorado Springs Gazette)
None of this was illegal or contrary to ethics codes. It’s just the way the way Washington has worked, with earmarks forging and cementing relationships between Members of Congress and their benefactors.
Earmarks have been banned in Congress since 2010. But not everyone is happy, with progressive lawmakers like Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois calling for the return of the “glue” that used to hold bills together. But the Wall Street Journal recently commented that Congress is working better without earmarks, resulting in more oversight of, and accountability for, spending.
As he campaigns for a return to Congress, Tiahrt has unabashedly called for a return of earmark spending, telling audiences that the practice did not increase the level of spending. There’s plenty of evidence, along with common sense, that tells us that earmarks do increase spending.
But some people think it’s fun to spend other peoples’ money, and as shown by the post-Congress career path of Todd Tiahrt, it can be lucrative, too.
Candidate Todd Tiahrt criticizes Mike Pompeo for accepting PAC money as campaign contributions, but over his career Tiahrt has accepted PAC dollars in greater proportion than has Pompeo.
In a press release and on the campaign trail, candidate for the Republican Party nomination for United States Congress from the fourth district of Kansas Todd Tiahrt has criticized Mike Pompeo for his acceptance of PAC, or political action committee, campaign contributions. An example from a June 19 press release reads “PAC Man Pompeo’s special interest money means special interest legislation.”
Later in the same release: “So, was Mr. Pompeo representing Kansans or his PAC supporters?”
So if Tiahrt is criticizing a candidate for accepting campaign contributions from political action committees, voters may want to know the entire story. As it turns out, the story is easy to learn.
The Center for Responsive Politics has summarized campaign contribution data back to the year 2000. According to its summary, 33 percent of campaign contributions to Tiahrt since then were from PACs.
For Pompeo, over his career as a candidate, the figure is 32 percent of campaign contributions from PACs.
A television ad by Todd Tiahrt claims that Mike Pompeo voted seven times to fund Obamacare. What are the facts about those bills?
The seven bills referenced in the Tiahrt ad are appropriations bills that fund numerous departments and agencies of the federal government. Three of the bills were to fund the operations of government for as little as one week. One bill was 475 pages in length. Most passed with broad support of Republicans, including the Kansas delegation. Some reduced funding that had been authorized by the previous Congress.
Somewhere deep within these bills there may be funding that went to the Department of Health and Human Services that in some way provided funds for the implementation of Obamacare. The first three votes were short-term measures to continue appropriations established by the previous Congress. Tiahrt voted with a minority of Republicans to support that bill in its original form, then voted along with all Republicans except one against the passage of the conference report.
As to whether voting for these bills constitutes voting “to fund Obamacare,” the Pompeo campaign manager told the Wichita Eagle: “This type of flawed logic would drive someone to believe that Mr. Tiahrt voted eight times for Planned Parenthood funding for federal funding of abortions — which would be grossly misleading.”
The Eagle further reported: “Pompeo’s campaign provided a list of those eight bills. A fact-check found Tiahrt did vote ‘yes’ on the bills. But those bills were also general appropriation measures for departments that dealt with family planning.”
Here are the bills referenced in the Tiahrt television advertisement.
H.J.Res. 44 (112th): Further Continuing Appropriations Amendments, 2011. This bill provided appropriations for several dozen federal agencies. It passed 335 to 91. Republicans voted 231 to 6 in favor. All Kansans voted in favor. The Hill described this bill as a “two-week spending resolution … to support a measure aimed at averting a government shutdown this week.” (GOP spending bill passes in landslide as 100 Dems defect)
H.J.Res. 48 (112th): Additional Continuing Appropriations Amendments, 2011. This bill provided appropriations for a number of federal agencies. It also eliminated specific spending that was approved in 2010. It passed 271 to 158. Republicans voted 186 to 54 in favor. All Kansans except Huelskamp voted in favor. The Hill described this bill as a “three-week spending resolution.” (House adjourns, likely until late March)
H.R. 1363 (112th): Further Additional Continuing Appropriations Amendments, 2011. As described by the Congressional Research Service, the bill “Provides reduced rates of operation for FY2011 for the following accounts or activities within the Department of Transportation (DOT).” It also provided funds at reduced rates of operation for FY2011 for some accounts within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It also appears to have eliminated some earmarks passed by an earlier Congress. This bill passed 247 to 181. Republicans voted 232 to 6 in favor. All Kansans voted in favor. Of this bill, The Hill reported it was “a bill that would fund the federal government for another week.” (House adopts rule for one-week budget stopgap)
H.R. 1473 (112th): Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011. This is a large bill at 175 pages in length. The summary from the Congressional Research Service runs nearly 20,000 words. It passed 260 to 167. Republicans voted 179 to 59 in favor. All Kansans except Huelskamp voted in favor. This bill, voted on in April, was described by The Hill as “an agreement to fund the federal government for the rest of fiscal 2011.” The federal fiscal year ends on September 30.
H.R. 2055 (112th): Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012. At 486 pages, another large bill making appropriations for many agencies. On passage of the bill in the House, the vote was 411 to 5 in favor. The later vote on agreeing to the conference report passed 296 to 121. Republicans voted 147 to 86 in favor. All Kansans except Huelskamp voted in favor. The Hill reported this bill “covers spending for Defense, Energy and Water, Financial Services and General Government, Homeland Security, Interior, Labor/Health and Human Services, Legislative Branch, Military Construction/VA, and State/Foreign Operations.” (House approves $1 trillion omnibus spending bill in easy 296-121 vote)
H.J.Res. 117 (112th): Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2013. This bill provided appropriations for a number of federal agencies. It passed 329 to 91. Republicans voted 165 to 70 in favor. Kansans Huelskamp and Yoder voted against; Jenkins and Pompeo voted in favor. The Hill described this bill as a “six-month spending resolution to keep the government funded.” (Senate passes resolution to keep government funded)
H.R. 933 (113th): Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013. A 240 page bill that provides appropriates to many federal agencies. The House agreed to the conference report by a vote of 318 to 109. Republicans voted 203 to 27 in favor. All Kansans except Huelskamp voted in favor.
The practice of federal earmark spending was not kind to Kansas, as data shows Kansas was an earmark donor state.
The former practice of earmarking federal spending was seen as a way for members of Congress to demonstrate their political prowess by bringing the federal bacon back home to the district or state. Data gathered and analyzed by Brandon Arnold of Cato Institute shows that states differ greatly in the dollars sent to Washington as federal income taxes and the earmarks received.
Data for 2009, one of the last years for earmarking, along with Arnold’s calculations of a earmark ratio, shows that the value of this ratio varies from 25 percent to 1,104 percent. This ratio is calculated by first determining the proportion of total federal income taxes paid by a state. Use that to calculate the state’s proportional share of earmark dollars. Then, compare to earmarks actually received.
For 2009, the earmark ratio for Kansas was 81.9 percent. Based on the state contributing 0.9 percent of total federal taxes paid, Kansas should have received $173 million in earmarks. It actually received $142 million.
Arnold’s article contains other interesting find, such as comparing a state’s earmark ratio with it having members on appropriations committees.
I’ve presented Arnold’s data in an interactive spreadsheet. View the data below, or click here to open it in a new window, which may work best in most cases. This is a spreadsheet in Google Docs format. You may manipulate and save the data as your own copy.
A letter composed by 14 national security experts clarifies the debate over the role of the National Security Agency, its surveillance programs, and the safety of Americans. This is an issue in the campaign for the Republican Party nomination for United States Congress from the fourth district of Kansas. Challenger Todd Tiahrt has criticized Mike Pompeo for supporting the NSA data-gathering programs, saying that the programs spy on Americans. Pompeo has maintained that the programs are necessary to protect Americans from terrorism and other threats, and that there is sufficient oversight to protect privacy.
I think the most important part of the letter is the final two paragraphs:
Supporting the NSA collection programs illegally compromised by Edward Snowden is politically difficult given the media frenzy that has inaccurately portrayed these programs as domestic spying. We regret that too many politicians are taking a politically expedient position on this issue by siding with the news media on NSA programs in an effort to scare voters and win their support.
Leadership often means taking politically difficult stands on controversial issues. The current debate over NSA surveillance concerns crucial national security programs designed to protect our nation. In our view, supporting these programs and working to reassure the American people about why they are needed is the only responsible position on this issue.
What’s curious — incongruous is more accurate — is how Tiahrt and his supporters have morphed into rabid civil libertarians on this issue. This letter is signed by what we can describe as a neoconservative hall of fame, John Bolton and William Kristol in particular. This group advocates a muscular American foreign policy, which also describes Tiahrt while he was in Congress. He earned the moniker “Tanker Todd,” after all, for his support of building the next generation of air refueling tankers in the United States, and Wichita in particular. Or, maybe he supported building the tankers solely on its potential as a jobs program for Wichita, which if so, is bad policy.
Either way, it’s bizarre to see Tiahrt and his supporters opposing a policy designed to protect the American homeland. The people they’re lining up with: Usually they’d insult them with terms like isolationists and peaceniks. Or worse, libertarians.
I guess it is true, that politics makes strange bedfellows.
Following is the letter and its signatories.
We are a group of foreign policy professionals who are writing to express our concern over statements about NSA surveillance made during the Republican primary for the U.S House of Representatives seat for the 4th district of Kansas.
The illegal leaks of information about NSA programs by former NSA technician Edward Snowden kicked off a divisive debate in this country on whether or not NSA surveillance programs have violated the privacy rights of American citizens.
Many of the NSA programs compromised by Snowden have been portrayed by the news media and many politicians as “spying on Americans.”
While we appreciate the concerns voiced by many Americans over NSA surveillance programs in response to the Snowden leaks, we believe it is highly inaccurate to claim that these programs violate the privacy rights of American citizens. We believe the NSA program that has been most criticized, the NSA metadata program, has been subjected to careful oversight by the courts and the congressional intelligence oversight committees. This intelligence collection program has been upheld in 36 out of 39 decisions before 19 different judges.
We regret that critics of the metadata program and other NSA collection efforts ignore how these programs have helped protect our nation against terrorist attacks. For example, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein stated during a January 14, 2014 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that the metadata program helped stop terrorist plots to bomb the New York City subway, the New York stock exchange, and a Danish newspaper.
Supporting the NSA collection programs illegally compromised by Edward Snowden is politically difficult given the media frenzy that has inaccurately portrayed these programs as domestic spying. We regret that too many politicians are taking a politically expedient position on this issue by siding with the news media on NSA programs in an effort to scare voters and win their support.
Leadership often means taking politically difficult stands on controversial issues. The current debate over NSA surveillance concerns crucial national security programs designed to protect our nation. In our view, supporting these programs and working to reassure the American people about why they are needed is the only responsible position on this issue.
Hon. Michael B. Mukasey
81st Attorney General of the United States, former U.S. District Judge, Southern District of New York
Hon. Pete Hoekstra
Former Chairman, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
Lieutenant General William G. Boykin U.S. Army (Ret.)
Former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence
Admiral James A. Lyons, US Navy (Ret.) Former Commander-in-Chief,
Andrew C. McCarthy
Former Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney, Southern District of New York
Hon. Michelle Van Cleave
Former National Counterintelligence Executive
Clare M. Lopez Former CIA Officer
Hon. John R. Bolton
Former U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security
Hon. R. James Woolsey
Former Director of Central Intelligence
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
Former Assistant Secretary of Defense (Acting)
Editor, The Weekly Standard and Board Member, Foreign Policy Initiative
diGenova & Toensing Former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia
diGenova & Toensing
Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Chief Counsel, Senate Intelligence Committee
Former CIA Officer and former Professional Staff Member, House Intelligence Committee
Controversy over the timing and efficacy of an earmark divert attention from the fact that earmarks are bad government. Congress is better without the practice.
United States Congressional candidate Todd Tiahrt calls for a return to earmark spending in Congress, pointing to a million-dollar grant he obtained for Wichita to help defray costs of the Wichita Police Department in investigating and capturing serial killer Dennis Rader, or BTK. The Daily Caller has a report, as does the Wichita Eagle. Neither story is supportive of Tiahrt’s claim that earmarks were responsible for the capture of the BTK killer.
Speaking to the Wichita Pachyderm Club on May 16, Tiahrt defended the earmarking process, telling the audience “By the way, earmarks don’t raise spending. Earmarks never increase the budget. They simply redirect the funding.” (The complete broadcast of his talk is available at Voice for Liberty Radio: Todd Tiahrt.)
This is the standard argument: Earmarks simply direct the spending of money that is already authorized to be spent. Therefore, earmarking does not increase the amount spent. But this reasoning bypasses the fact that it is Congress that authorizes a certain amount to be spent. If Congress is concerned that too much is being spent, it could authorize less.
This notion that discretionary spending is on a trajectory that can’t be controlled; that all a hapless Congress can do is control where it is spent by earmarking: This is nonsense. Nonsense on stilts. Some of the problems with earmark spending are contained in For Tiahrt, earmarks are good government.
Logrolling, or the selling of earmarks
Many Members of Congress sell earmarks to the home district as a beneficial way to have the country as a whole to pay for our needs. It’s usually presented as though it is free money. Taxpayers across the country are paying for something in the home district, members say.
But as most people know in their hearts, there really is no free lunch. If Members of Congress expect other members to vote for their earmarks, they know they’re expected to vote for the earmarks of other members. This is precisely what happens.
The BTK earmark happened in 2005. In 2007 a group of House Members offered 50 amendments to remove earmarks from appropriations bills. Club for Growth compiled the following list, along with a scorecard of votes for each member. I’ve presented the list of amendments below, and you can view the project at The 2007 Club for Growth RePORK Card. It includes items like $150,000 for the Bremerton Public Library restoration in Washington, $129,000 for the Mitchell County Development Foundation for the home of the “perfect Christmas tree” project, and $100,000 for the Kansas Regional Prisons Museum in Lansing.
So two years after the BTK earmark for the Wichita Police Department, there were 50 opportunities for our representatives to make a simple up-or-down vote on wasteful pork barrel spending projects. Only one of these amendments passed.
Todd Tiahrt voted against all of these amendments. He, along with 81 Democrats and 23 other Republicans, could find no good reason to vote against any of these projects.
So while Wichita received help paying for a police investigation, we in the fourth congressional district had to pay for all these other projects. After all, how could Tiahrt ask his congressional colleagues to support his own earmarks if he did not support theirs?
Congress is better without earmarks
While there has been a ban on earmarks since 2010, some members and candidates call for a return to earmarking. But a recent Wall Street Journal editorial explains the benefit of the ending of earmarks and a return to accountability in legislative decision-making:
Congressional cries to restore earmarks are mounting, and a new favorite argument is that the spenders need the pork authority to properly exercise their Constitutional power of the purse. But if you look at what’s happening inside Congress, the opposite is true: The earmark ban is producing more spending accountability and oversight. … When Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin now pines for the days when earmarks were the “glue” holding bills together, what he’s really missing is leadership’s power to dole out home-state patronage. Pork-barrel Republicans who say the earmark ban has transferred spending power to the President are excusing their own unwillingness to set priorities. … This process put House Members in control of spending decisions, even as it required them to choose on the basis of fact and analysis — rather than logrolling.
(“Logrolling” is the practice of supporting others’ projects in order to gain support for yours. Vote trading, in other words.)
At the same May 2014 Pachyderm Club meeting, Tiahrt said that earmark spending is still happening, but now it’s directed through the executive branch. Congress has given President Obama a “blank check,” Tiahrt told the audience. The Wall Street Journal editorial board disagrees.
Following is the list of 50 amendments that would have canceled pork barrel spending projects in 2007.
House Vote 559 — Bars funding of $150,000 for the Clover Bend Historic Site in Arkansas. Amendment failed, 98-331.
House Vote 560 — Bars funding of $100,000 for the St. Joseph’s College Theatre Renovation in Indiana. Amendment failed, 97-328.
House Vote 561 — Bars funding of $150,000 for the Maverick Concert Hall preservation in New York. Amendment failed, 114-316.
House Vote 562 — Bars funding of $150,000 for the Bremerton Public Library restoration in Washington. Amendment failed, 98-333.
House Vote 565 — Bars funding of $140,000 for the Wetzel County Courthouse in West Virginia. Amendment failed, 104-323.
House Vote 566 — Bars funding of $150,000 for equipment for the Conte Anadromous Fish Laboratory. Amendment failed, 97-330.
House Vote 567 — Bars funding of $150,000 for the W.A. Young and Sons Foundry in Pennsylvania. Amendment failed, 104-328.
House Vote 568 — Bars funding of $100,000 for the Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters to renovate a hall in Ohio. Amendment failed, 66-364.
House Vote 569 — Bars funding of $1,200,000 for projects related to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Heritage Route. Amendment failed, 86-343.
House Vote 590 — Bars funding of $231,000 for the Grace Johnstown Area Regional Industries Incubator and Workforce Development program in Pennsylvania. Amendment failed, 87-335.
House Vote 591 — Bars funding of $500,000 for a project in the Barracks Row area of Washington, D.C. Amendment failed, 60-361.
House Vote 592 — Bars funding of $231,000 for the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association’s SPUR urban center. Amendment failed, 102-317.
House Vote 593 — Bars funding of $129,000 for the Mitchell County Development Foundation for the home of the “perfect Christmas tree” project. Amendment passed, 249-174.
House Vote 594 — Bars funding of $231,000 for the West Virginia University Research Corporation’s renovation of a small-business incubator. Amendment failed, 101-325.
House Vote 595 — Bars funding of $231,000 for the Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission. Amendment failed, 107-318.
House Vote 597 — To remove 148 requested earmarks from the bill. Amendment failed, 48-372.
House Vote 636 — Bars funding of $1,000,000 for the Center for Instrumented Critical Infrastructure in Pennsylvania. Amendment failed, 98-326.
House Vote 637 — Bars funding of $1,500,000 for the South Carolina Historically Black Colleges and Universities Science and Technology Initiative. Amendment failed, 70-357.
House Vote 638 — Bars funding of $500,000 for the Emmanuel College Center for Science Partnership in Massachusetts. Amendment failed, 79-337.
House Vote 639 — Bars funding of $1,000,000 for nano-structured fuel cell membrane electrode assembly in California. Amendment failed, 81-348.
House Vote 640 — Strikes numerous earmarks from the bill. Amendment failed, 39-388.
House Vote 654 — Bars funding of $34,000,000 for the Alaska Native Education Equity program and other programs. Amendment failed, 74-352.
House Vote 663 — Strikes all earmarks in the bill. Amendment failed, 53-369.
House Vote 664 — Bars funding of $300,000 for its Bay Area Science Teacher Recruitment, Retention and Improvement Initiative. Amendment failed, 89-341.
House Vote 667 — Bars funding of $300,000 for the On Location Entertainment Industry Craft and Technician Training project at West Los Angeles College in Culver City, CA. Amendment failed, 114-316.
House Vote 668 — Bars funding of $150,000 for the American Ballet Theatre in New York City for educational activities. Amendment failed, 118-312.
House Vote 669 — Bars funding of $150,000 for the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston, S.C. Amendment failed, 70-360.
House Vote 670 — Bars funding of $100,000 for the Kansas Regional Prisons Museum in Lansing, Kan. Amendment failed, 112-317.
House Vote 671 — Bars funding of $200,000 for the Corporation for Jefferson’s Popular Forest in Forest, VA. Amendment failed, 68-360.
House Vote 678 — Bars funding of $2,000,000 for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York in New York City. Amendment failed, 108-316.
House Vote 679 — Bars funding of $200,000 for the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, MO. Amendment failed, 96-327.
House Vote 698 — Bars funding of $300,000 for the Belmont Complex in Kittanning, PA. Amendment failed, 87-335.
House Vote 699 — Bars funding of $400,000 for the North Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission in Wausau, WI. Amendment failed, 68-356.
House Vote 700 — Bars funding of $50,000 for the National Mule and Packers Museum in Woodlake, CA. Amendment failed, 69-352.
House Vote 701 — Bars funding of $300,000 for the Friends of Cheat Rails-to-Trails Program in West Virginia. Amendment failed, 81-342.
House Vote 702 — Bars funding of $300,000 for the Houston Zoo in Texas. Amendment failed, 77-347.
House Vote 705 — Bars funding of $150,000 for the Edmonds Center for the Arts in Edmonds, WA. Amendment failed, 97-327.
House Vote 706 — Bars funding for “parking facilities”. Amendment failed, 86-338.
House Vote 735 — Bars funding of $200,000 for the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine in Orono, Maine. Amendment failed, 87-328.
House Vote 736 — Bars funding of $250,000 for the East Coast Shellfish Research Institute in Toms River, NJ. Amendment failed, 77-337.
House Vote 809 — Bars funding of $878,046 for the Catfish Pathogen Genomic Project in Auburn, AL. Amendment failed, 74-357.
House Vote 810 — Bars funding of $628,843 for grape genetics research in Geneva, NY. Amendment failed, 76-353.
House Vote 811 — Bars funding of $400,000 for the alternative uses of a tobacco grant in Maryland. Amendment failed, 94-337.
House Vote 812 — Bars funding of $489,000 for Ruminant Nutrition Consortium in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. Amendment failed, 74-355.
House Vote 813 — Bars funding of $6,371,000 for the wood utilization grant in Mississippi, North Carolina, Minnesota, Maine, Michigan, Idaho, Tennessee, Arkansas and West Virginia. Amendment failed, 68-363.
House Vote 839 — Bars funding of $2,500,000 for the Presidio Trust national park in San Francisco, CA. Amendment failed, 94-311.
House Vote 842 — Bars funding of $2,000,000 for the “Paint Shield for Protecting People from Microbial Threats.” Amendment failed, 91-317.
House Vote 843 — Bars funding of $1,500,000 for the Doyle Center for Manufacturing Technology in Pittsburgh, PA. Amendment failed, 98-312.
House Vote 844 — Bars funding of $3,000,000 for the Lewis Center for Education Research in Apple Valley, CA. Amendment failed, 57-353.
House Vote 845 — Bars funding of $39,000,000 for the National Drug Intelligence Center in Johnstown, PA. Amendment failed, 109-301.
Kansans should be happy that Senator Pat Roberts is voting in a fiscally conservative way. Happy, but skeptical.
Organizations like Club for Growth produce scorecards of legislators. The motto of Club for Growth is “Prosperity and Opportunity through Economic Freedom.” It supports candidates who believe in pro-growth policies, limited government, low taxes, and economic freedom. Kansans who believe in these values can trust Club for Growth as a reliable indicator of candidates’ beliefs and actions.
The Club for Growth creates voting scorecards. These scorecards are a selection of votes that the organization believes distinguish between those who support the club’s pro-growth goals, and those who don’t. Scorecards like this are valuable because they show what officeholders have actually done, which may be different from what they say they have done, or what they promise to do.
Kansans should be happy that its senior senator Pat Roberts has been voting largely in alignment with these policies that promote growth and economic freedom. These votes are good for Kansas, and good for America.
But it hasn’t always been this way for Roberts, and we don’t know what the future holds. If reelected, Roberts could return to his usual voting habits.
There’s little doubt that Roberts is voting in a way divergent from his past. Even the New York Times noticed a shift in Roberts’ voting as an election approaches, recently reporting “And Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, eyeing his state’s sharp turn to the right, made sure to align his votes with the fiscally conservative Club for Growth 84 percent of the time last year.”
I’ve gathered scorecard results from Club for Growth for all years available. In the nearby chart, I present the scores for Roberts. I also present the average scores for a group of Republican senators that are often criticized for straying from fiscally conservative policies. This group includes Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Richard Lugar of Indiana, John McCain of Arizona, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and Roberts.
As you can see, Roberts tracks this groups of senators fairly closely. Some years Roberts voted more in alignment with the goals of Club for Growth, and some years less. But in 2013, as the New York Times noticed, Roberts departed quite a bit from this pack of of Republicans.
So Kansans and all Americans should be pleased that Pat Roberts has been voting for limited government and economic freedom. But it’s out of character for him, and the election-year timing can’t be ignored as a motivating factor. What will Roberts do when an election is not near?
Scorecards such as these and others, including the ones that I’ve personally constructed, have caveats. For example, some members have not been in office very long. Issues in which you have an interest may not have been voted on during the member of interest’s tenure. Or, the vote may not have been a recorded vote, which is common. Also, the mere fact of a vote for or against a bill does not measure or account for leadership on the issue, or intensity of interest and involvement. I’ve not seen scorecards that incorporate the work performed and votes made in committees, which is an important part of legislating. Further, the selection of votes to be included is an issue. Organizations that create scorecards generally have issues that are important to them, and may focus on a subset of issues to the exclusion of all others.
From Club for Growth, whose motto is “Prosperity and Opportunity through Economic Freedom.”
Club for Growth PAC Endorses Mike Pompeo For Congress
Club for Growth President Chris Chocola: “Mike stands on principle to do what’s right for Kansas and America.”
May 29, 2014
Washington, DC — The Club for Growth PAC announced today that it is endorsing Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo for re-election. Congressman Pompeo represents Kansas’s Fourth Congressional District. Former Congressman Todd Tiahrt has announced that he is challenging Congressman Pompeo in the Republican primary.
“Congressman Mike Pompeo is a taxpayer hero with a 90% on the Club for Growth’s congressional scorecard and we hope he is re-nominated by Kansas Republicans,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola. “Mike stands on principle to do what’s right for Kansas and America. He’ll never stop fighting the Obama agenda in Washington.”
“Former Congressman Todd Tiahrt, on the other hand, has a liberal voting record that pales in comparison to Mike Pompeo. Congressman Tiahrt was one of the biggest spenders in the Republican Party when he served in Congress,” continued Chocola. “He voted to spend millions on an Exploratorium in San Francisco, a Lobster Institute in Maine, and even to spend millions on a building named after liberal New York Congressman Charlie Rangel. If that wasn’t bad enough, he voted for Obama’s wasteful ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program and to raise his own pay five times. Now that he’s decided to run for Congress, the Club’s PAC will do everything it can to make sure voters in Kansas learn the truth about Todd Tiahrt and his liberal record.”
Kansas Senator Pat Roberts promotes his fiscal conservatism, but failed to vote in favor of earmark reform in a recent close vote.
In 2012 an amendment to a Senate bill was offered that would have dramatically reformed the earmark process.
The purpose of the amendment, according to Congress.gov, is “to prohibit earmarks.” Although offered in 2012, the short title of the amendment was “Earmark Elimination Act of 2011″
The nub of the amendment was “It shall not be in order in the Senate to consider a bill or resolution introduced in the Senate or the House of Representatives, amendment, amendment between the Houses, or conference report that includes an earmark.”
The amendment was rejected by a vote of 59 to 40. Among Democratic Party members, the vote was 44 to 7 against the amendment. For Republican Party members, the vote was 33 to 13 in favor of the amendment.
One of the 13 Republicans who voted against this reform-minded amendment was Pat Roberts of Kansas.
Appearing today on The Joseph Ashby Show, candidate for United States House of Representatives Todd Tiahrt defended the practice of earmarking federal spending.
He said that Congress should take away the president’s pen, and should do that by allocating funding properly. When pressed by the host, Tiahrt repeated that earmarks do not increase spending.
This is the standard argument: Earmarks simply direct the spending of money that is already authorized to be spent. Earmarking does not increase the amount spent. Which, of course, bypasses the fact that Congress authorizes a certain amount to be spent. If Congress is concerned that too much is being spent, it could authorize less.
There is broad agreement among limited-government conservatives that earmarks are harmful. Taxpayers for Common Sense concludes:
Earmarks reflect a broken budget process. Too often earmarks reward parochial interests at the expense of national needs. The earmarking process also often subverts established merit-based, competitive, or formula-driven budget processes without debate. Ultimately earmarks may fund projects many people consider “good” projects, but the earmark process does not guarantee these are the most beneficial and worthwhile projects.
At The Heritage Foundation, commentary on a Harvard Business school study opened with:
What happens when a state is lucky enough to have one of their Senators ascend to one of the three most powerful committee chairmanships? According to a new study by three Harvard Business School the average state then experiences a 40 to 50 percent increase in earmark spending (the figure is a smaller 20% for powerful House committees). So this new government spending is then a boon to the state right? The public spending stimulates economic growth right? Wrong. Turns out, increased federal spending is connected with a decrease in corporate capital expenditures and employment.
It should be noted that while in Congress, Tiahrt served on the Committee on Appropriations, one of the “powerful House committees” referred to. Further evidence of Tiahrt’s attitude is that today on Ashby’s show he referred to Jim DeMint, the former senator, anti-earmark crusader, and now president of Heritage, as a failure.
At The Cato Institute, Tad DeHaven wrote that earmarks are a symptom of a larger problem:
There just isn’t much difference between the activities funded via earmarking and the activities funded by standard bureaucratic processes. The means are different, but the ends are typically the same: federal taxpayers paying for parochial benefits that are properly the domain of state and local governments, or preferably, the private sector. As a federal taxpayer, I’m no better off if the U.S. Dept. of Transportation decides to fund a bridge in Alaska or if Alaska’s congressional delegation instructs the DOT to fund the bridge.
Therefore, earmarking is a symptom of the problem. The problem is the existence of programs that enables the federal government to spend money on parochial activities.
Also at Cato, Dan Mitchell makes the most important argument:
Last but not least, earmarks are utterly corrupt. The fact that they are legal does not change the fact that they finance a racket featuring big payoffs to special interests, who give big fees to lobbyists (often former staffers and Members), who give big contributions to politicians. Everyone wins … except taxpayers.
In this episode of Voice for Liberty Radio: Candidate for United States Senate Dr. Milton Wolf spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club on Friday June 13. He spoke about the issues he feels are important today in America and took questions from the audience. Dr. Wolf was introduced to the Pachyderm Club members and guests by myself.
In this episode of Voice for Liberty Radio: United States Senator Pat Roberts spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club on Friday May 30. He addressed a number of current topics in Washington such as the problems at the Veterans Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, and regulations regarding the lesser prairie chicken. He also spoke about his current campaign for re-election and took questions from the audience. Roberts was introduced to the Pachyderm Club members and guests by Sedgwick County Republican Party Chairman Bob Dool.
Arguments for term limits
- With term limits in place, Congress will be more responsible toward their constituents because they will soon be constituents themselves. They will have to live under the laws they have created while in office.
- Members of Congress will have less time in office to develop financially beneficial commitments to lobbyists and other special interest groups, thereby undermining the threat of lobbyists being a primary influence on legislation.
- Since the time of the Founding Fathers, a general consensus states that people, when given power, will eventually be corrupted by it. If Congress has term limits in place, their power will also be limited. Candidates will be more likely to run for the purpose of serving the people, and they would have to leave office before corruption dominates their decisions.
- Congress is heavily entrenched in partisan politics, resulting in gridlock when trying to pass any legislation. If term limits were enacted, toeing the party line would be less important, as the need for re-election and holding onto party seats would no longer be the driving force behind most legislative decisions. Congress would have an easier time passing the legislation that would make a positive difference for the nation.
- Money is a major factor in who will win an election. Incumbents have the benefit of the profits they made while in power — plus the backing of their party, contributing organizations and special interests — to get re-elected. However, these wealthy incumbents are often not the best person for the job, as they are so far-removed from the daily realities of the American people. A middle class person who better understands the problems facing the average citizen is highly unlikely to get elected over a wealthy incumbent. Term limits will help to eliminate the shady, profitable relationships between members of Congress and special interest groups, and therefore reduce the wealth gap between candidates. In turn, more qualified people will have a real opportunity to win elections.
- Within Congress, most legislation is written by a committee that handles a specific duty or topic. Committee appointments can be very prized positions for the power, influence and financial backing that can be attained. These positions are often assigned based on political favors and a willingness to support causes or projects. Therefore, career politicians who have formed the most self-serving relationships can often be given the most power in Congress. Term limits would work to stop this cycle of political reward and power abuse. Committee assignments would be determined by merit and expertise, resulting in fair and informed decisions.
The arguments against term limits
Career politicians should be valued for their experience. If we regularly fill a Congressional office with a newcomer, we will lose the valuable experience on-the-job that person can offer in government.
- On occasion, there may be a member of Congress that has fought for his constituents and resisted the corrupt system of power abuse that is considered normal on Capitol Hill. The Founding Fathers discussed the need for a “rotation of office.” When one’s terms are up in one office, that politician can run for another office (such as a member of the House running for Senator, Governor, etc.) and put their experience to use in other helpful ways.
- The notion that only one person — the incumbent — can do the job well is absurd. Problematically, we continue to elect the incumbent because of name recognition and party affiliation rather than a proven track record. Realistically, there is usually someone just as qualified to take over the incumbent’s office.
Term limits are not necessary because members of Congress must be regularly re-elected. If they are not doing a good job in office, we can simply vote for someone else.
- While this would happen in an ideal world, historically the incumbent is re-elected 90% of the time. The playing field is simply not level between incumbents and challenging candidates because of the ability to raise money. In 2010, the average incumbent in the House raised around $1.4 million, while the challengers averaged $166,000. In the same year, Senate incumbents averaged $9.4 million for each campaign, while challengers raised $519,000. With that incredible discrepancy, it is no surprise that the incumbent usually prevails. If a member of Congress is limited to one or two terms, the party itself and other major donors would not invest nearly as much in an incumbent, giving challengers a better chance of winning the race.
Term limits would give more power to bureaucrats and lobbyists.
- This argument is based in the notion that incoming legislators will be entirely unqualified for their jobs and will be easily led astray by staff, bureaucrats, special interests, etc. The way the system works today suggests that the real problem is in longevity of office and the complacency that can come along with it. For instance, lobbyists invest heavily in long-term relationships with sitting legislators. Congress members currently shirk many responsibilities by delegating them to bureaucratic agencies.
- Term limits have the potential to greatly reduce these problems. When more Congressional races are won by challengers from outside the Beltway, this change is likely to bring new staffers with new ideas into Washington, rather than recycling the same old corrupt insiders.
Term limits are unconstitutional.
- Clearly this is not the case, as the President of the United States is limited to two terms because of a Constitutional Amendment. A 28th Amendment would be necessary to impose term limits for Congress, and that is precisely what we are seeking. Since Congress will not willingly do so on their own, it is imperative that Americans make their voice heard on this issue.
When candidate for United States Senator from Kansas Milton Wolf posted medical images that some thought were unethical, the establishment political class was worked up over this perceived indiscretion.
Now the initial hubbub has died down. Except, on a website produced by the Pat Roberts campaign. Not only produced, but promoted so that when you Google “milton wolf” you’ll be presented with a paid advertisement directing your attention to this site. That site prominently features and takes delight in presenting these perceived indiscretions for which Dr. Wolf has accepted responsibility for and apologized.
But there are a few questions that Kansas voters should ask of the senator and his campaign, such as:
Senator Roberts, if it’s true that what Dr. Wolf posted was out-of-bounds or unethical, why is it acceptable for your campaign to post the same images and words for political gain? In my illustrations I’ve pixelated the images that you contend are unethical. But why do you post the original images?
Also: Why was it allowable for the Topeka Capital-Journal to post the images and quotes, if, as is contended, their use outside the doctor-patient relationship is unethical?
And: Senator Roberts, if their use is unethical, as your campaign contends, why does your campaign continuously call attention to them? Why does your campaign pay for advertising to promote their visibility?
A group of like-minded Republican senators has apparently lost a member. Is the conservative voting streak by Pat Roberts an election year conversion, or just a passing fad?
— Leroy Towns (@dltowns) May 22, 2014
FreedomWorks — whose motto is “Government fails. Freedom works.” — describes itself like this:
We are over 6 million Americans who are passionate about promoting free markets and individual liberty. Our members all share three common traits: a desire for less government, lower taxes, and more economic freedom.
For over a quarter century, FreedomWorks has identified, educated, and actuated citizens who are enthused about showing up to support free enterprise and constitutionally limited government.
So it’s good that Sen. Roberts is voting in favor of the goals of FreedomWorks. Economic freedom, free enterprise, and limited government are goals we need to work towards.
But: Until the last two years, Roberts’ score on the FreedomWorks scorecard followed the pattern of a group of well-known Republican senators: Thad Cochran, Lindsey Graham, Richard Lugar, Mitch McConnell, and John McCain. In some years this group voted well according to FreedomWorks’ criteria, but in many years their voting record was poor.
But this group of like-minded GOP senators has a renegade member. For 2013 and 2014 Pat Roberts’ score is markedly higher than the other members of this group. Roberts announced his intent to run for reelection in January 2013.
On the chart I’ve included records for Jim DeMint and Harry Reid to provide two examples of voting records that value — and disrespect — economic freedom, according to FreedomWorks.
Voters might want to consider who is the real Pat Roberts: The one that votes along with Mitch McConnell (even less supportive of economic freedom in some years)? Or the one that votes in favor of less government, lower taxes, and more economic freedom only when an election approaches?
You can investigate the FreedomWorks scorecards yourself. Click here to use the interactive visualization that plots senators individually, showing as many as you want. Click to add or remove senators.
Or, you may use the visualization that blends voting records on one chart.
Kansas Senator Dennis Pyle (@Dennis_Pyle) is considering challenging Pat Roberts (@SenPatRoberts) and Milton Wolf (@miltonwolfmd) for the Republican Party nomination for United States Senator from Kansas.
As suspicious as I am regarding the motivations of politicians, I didn’t think of this until a few political observers suggested it: Could this be an effort by the Roberts campaign to muddy the waters and diminish Wolf’s prospects? Or was this an organic decision made by Pyle — after “months of prayer,” of course? Or did Roberts campaign operatives butter up the northeast Kansas Senator and seduce him with the possibility of a U.S. senate seat — or, at least keeping it in the hands of Roberts?
The latter seems about right. But I don’t really know.
United States Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita has been appointed to the Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi. I spoke with him today in his Wichita office on this topic and a few others.
On the composition of the committee — seven Republicans and five Democrats — Pompeo explained that the majority party usually has a majority on committees of this type. A “Select” committee like this has a very narrow charter. The committee will have staff and counsel, and will deliver a report. After that, the committee will disband.
Critics of this committee point to the several committees that have already held hearings on this matter and the thousands of documents produced. What can this committee accomplish? Pompeo said that despite all the previous activity, we do not know everything. The Ben Rhodes email that was supplied just last week is an example.
Pompeo said the administration has not been very cooperative. The committee wants to learn what decisions were made on September 11, 2012, how were the decisions made, and by whom.
While the committee operates in a political environment, Pompeo said that the six other Republicans on the committee (the Democratic members have not been named) are “workhorses,” who will work to come to a factual conclusion. It may be, he said, that conservatives will disappointed in the output of the committee, in that the facts show that there was no wrongdoing or malfeasance. If that is what the facts show, that’s what will be in the committee’s report, he said.
It is not known whether Democrats will boycott the committee. Pompeo said it’s important that Democrats participate in the committee proceedings, as this will best serve the American public interest. The decision will be made by Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader.
As for the committee being a “witch hunt” or simply a political operation, Pompeo reminded me that Speaker John Boehner was reluctant to call for the formation of this special committee. Pompeo said that the Republican members of the committee, except for chair Trey Gowdy, are members with low profiles, and not widely known by Americans.
On the situation in Ukraine, Pompeo said the situation remains incredibly intense. The Russians have fomented strife in the region, with a propaganda campaign to create the predicate for a Russian invasion. Western Europe has begun to recognize the risk and has started to implement a few more sanctions. Putin’s goal is to reconstruct Greater Russia, he said.
On the subject of Boko Haram, the radical Islamist group that has captured young girls in Nigeria, Pompeo said this is another example of how the war against Islamic terrorism is not over. He said that today there are 8,000 Al-Qaeda in Syria. In 2001, on September 10, there were 200 in Afghanistan. The threat today is far greater than it was 13 years ago, and the Obama administration has thrown in the towel, he said.
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: United States Representative Mike Pompeo talks about Eastern Europe and Russia, economic development and incentives, and the Netflix television series House of Cards. Episode 40, broadcast April 27, 2014. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.
A candidate challenging a long-time incumbent for United States Senator from Kansas provides the opportunity to explore the need for term limits, and the related concepts of initiative and referendum. This is an excerpt from February 16, 2014. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.
Organizations like Club for Growth produce scorecards of legislators. I’ve gathered results from Club for Growth for all years available and present them in an interactive visualization.
You may select which members to show. By clicking on a member’s name in the legend, their line will be highlighted from the others.
Scorecards such as these and others, including the ones that I’ve personally constructed, have caveats. For example, some members have not been in office very long. Issues in which you have an interest may not have been voted on during the member of interest’s tenure. Or, the vote may not have been a recorded vote, which is common. Also, the mere fact of a vote for or against a bill does not measure or account for leadership on the issue, or intensity of interest and involvement. I’ve not seen scorecards that incorporate work and votes in committees, which is an important part of legislating.
Further, the selection of votes to be included is an issue. Organizations that create scorecards generally have issues that are important to them, and may focus on a subset of issues to the exclusion of all others.
To use the visualization I created, click here to open it in a new window. A nearby illustration shows how to use it.
The Washington Examiner reports “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has received campaign contributions from people and political action committees linked to multiple companies suspected of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”
This comes as the Senate Majority Leader has used the Senate floor to criticize Charles and David Koch for doing things that Reid doesn’t like … such as advocating for and supporting free markets, economic freedom, and limited government.
Near the end of February Reid said from the Senate floor this about ObamaCare: “Despite all that good news, there’s plenty of horror stories being told. All of them are untrue, but they’re being told all over America.”
On advertisements from Americans for Prosperity, an organization linked to Charles and David Koch, Reid said: “We heard about the evils of Obamacare, about the lives it’s ruining in Republicans’ stump speeches and in ads paid for by oil magnates, the Koch brothers. But in those tales, turned out to be just that: tales, stories made up from whole cloth, lies distorted by the Republicans to grab headlines or make political advertisements.”
Many may be surprised to learn that when members of Congress are speaking on the floor, they are immune from standards of behavior that the rest of us — including Charles and David Koch and Americans for Prosperity — must observe. That is, members can’t be sued for libel and slander while speaking as did Reid. Constitutional Law For Dummies explains Article I of the United States Constitution: “Among other consequences, the clause gives members of Congress a right, unique among American citizens and other officials, to basically libel or slander others in statements on the floor of Congress.”
More about this issue may be found at Koch representatives respond to U.S. Senate majority leader’s recent attacks.
From the office of U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo.
Statement from Congressman Mike Pompeo on Washington’s Attacks on Koch Industries
WASHINGTON — Congressman Mike Pompeo issued the following statement on the unwarranted attacks on Koch Industries in light of the efforts to reform the Internal Revenue Service:
“The IRS’s targeting of individuals demonstrates the administration’s lawlessness at its worst. Public officials have a responsibility to uphold the Constitution and use their office to protect the rights of Americans, rather than attack them for their political advocacy. Silencing critics through government muscle, as the IRS has done, runs counter to every founding principle of the United States of America.
“Yet opponents of the House’s effort to hold the IRS accountable have doubled down and continued to attack two private citizens, Charles and David Koch, as deserving of such government abuse. Senator Reid’s attacks today from the Senate floor are reprehensible. This cannot be tolerated — not for these two great men or for any individual who disagrees with those in power.
“The Kochs’ Wichita-based company employs close to 60,000 people in manufacturing jobs. These predominantly middle-class employees live in nearly all 50 states and are a benefit to the communities they work and live in. They are good people and good neighbors, my neighbors, and deserve protection under the law that is equal to those lawmakers who seek to marginalize them.
“The jobs created by this company are a far greater benefit to the middle class than any wasteful Washington program. We should be taking lessons from hardworking Americans in the private sector instead of continuing to play politics with people’s lives.”
Earlier today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused the Kochs of funding ads critical of the Affordable Care Act’s disastrous implementation that he claims are “completely untrue,” a claim that contradicts the thrust of most news coverage of the rollout.
For more information, contact:
JP Freire | Director of Communications and Speechwriter
Office of Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas)
107 Cannon HOB| Washington, D.C. 20515
Office (202) 225-6216 | Fax (202) 225-3489
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: The controversy surrounding the residence of a long-time senator from Kansas raises issues of term limits and the ability of citizens to exercise the power of initiative and referendum. Then, the seen and the unseen applied to economic development in Wichita, and why do we rely on certain experts. Episode 31, broadcast February 16, 2014. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.
In this episode of WichitaLiberty Radio: U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas spoke at a meeting of the Wichita Pachyderm Club. Some of the topics and questions Pompeo answered included:
The size of the defense budget, the threats to our nation, and the importance of the National Security Agency in keeping the country safe. He addressed privacy concerns.
What about tension between the Speaker of the House and tea party and conservatives?
What’s wrong the the just-passed farm bill, and how did it pass?
Attitudes towards and respect for Congress and the President.
The arrest of a suspect in an attack on the Wichita Airport.
The presentation started with a video of Rep. Pompeo questioning Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
This recording contains Pompeo’s prepared remarks in full and selected responses to questions at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on February 7, 2014.
In this episode of WichitaLiberty Radio: United States Representative Tim Huelskamp recently spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club.
Congressman Huelskamp was born near and raised on the family farm in Fowler, Kansas. He earned a Ph.D. in Political Science with a specialization in agriculture policy from The American University in Washington, D.C. He was first elected to the Kansas Senate in 1996, and then re-elected three times. In 2010 when Jerry Moran stepped down to run for the United States Senate, Huelskamp ran for the United States House of Representatives for the first district. That’s commonly called the “Big First” district, not because of its population, but because of its large land area. Some of the principle cities in the first district are Liberal, Garden City, Dodge City, Hays, Salina, Hutchinson, Emporia, and Manhattan. Congressman Huelskamp appears frequently on national news media as an advocate for conservative causes, and he recently appeared on WichitaLiberty.TV, which you can find here. He and his wife Angela are the parents of four children.
This is podcast episode number 7, released on January 26, 2014. Here is a portion of United States Representative Tim Huelskamp at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on January 24, 2014.
In this episode of WichitaLiberty Radio: Dr. Milton Wolf is a candidate for United States Senate from Kansas and will face incumbent Pat Roberts in the August Republican primary election. We spoke by telephone on January 23, 2014. As Wolf is a physician, it should be no surprise that health care was a major topic. Also, he answers the question that’s on everyone’s mind: Jayhawks, Wildcats, or Shockers? This is podcast episode number 6, released on January 23, 2014.
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: United States Representative Tim Huelskamp of Kansas appears to explain the recent budget bill, Obamacare, the government shutdown, the debt ceiling, government spending, and whether he is optimistic or pessimistic about the country’s future. Episode 25, broadcast December 22, 2013. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.
Rep. Huelskamp’s Congressional website is huelskamp.house.gov.
U.S. Representatives from Kansas split on voting for the budget bill produced by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray. Lynn Jenkins and Kevin Yoder voted in favor, while Mike Pompeo and Tim Huelskamp voted against the bill. It passed 332 to 94.
In a statement from his office, Pompeo said:
Washington — Congressman Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, voted today against adopting a budget that would increase spending in 2014 and 2015 over the hard-fought Budget Control Act’s (BCA) limit.
“Despite opposition at the time, I supported the Budget Control Act because it was a compromise that represented the first real cut in discretionary spending in over a generation. While I agree Congress should replace cuts to national security with reforms of mandatory spending, we cannot abandon the progress we’ve already made in cutting spending. I greatly respect Chairman Ryan’s efforts to reach a bipartisan agreement to fix our spending problems, and agree with many of its provisions, including protecting doctors’ payments against needless reductions, ensuring hospitals are paid fairly in Medicare, and requiring federal employees to contribute more to their pension plans. But this new budget would stymie the progress we’ve made in reducing spending through sequestration. Kansans understand the need to budget fairly and live within our means. Washington must be held to the same standard.”
Huelskamp issued this statement:
“Just two years ago, Congress and the President made a promise to cut spending through the sequester. With this bill, they are abandoning this promise with a massive $63 billion in new deficit spending. So much for ‘if you like your spending cut, you can keep your spending cut.’ But no worries, after the 2022 election, a future Congress and President are certain to do what Washington refuses to do today. Sure.
In addition to this bipartisan agreement to raise spending for all sides and violating their own sequester, it would also assist Senator Harry Reid in passing tax increases through the Senate. It further also divides the House Republican Conference by abandoning our agreement reached in Williamsburg last January, rejects nearly all of the provisions passed by the House in three successive Ryan budgets, and does nothing to oppose ObamaCare.
Washington insiders are fond about saying, ‘this must be a good deal if I didn’t get everything I wanted.’ The real solution would be — the American people getting what they want.”
Pompeo Votes Against Unlimited Government Spending
“We can’t keep raising the debt ceiling without addressing the drivers of our debt.”
Washington — Congressman Mike Pompeo released the following statement following his vote on the debt ceiling:
Washington has once more kicked the can down the road by raising the limit on the government credit card without dealing with the drivers our national debt. This means fewer jobs, higher taxes, and ordinary Kansans suffering under the ever-increasing, costly burden of Obamacare that will achieve few, if any, of its goals. We cannot afford this new entitlement and the President is now on track to double the national debt. Every American family has to live within its means, and Washington should do the same. Today’s legislation may well have averted the “crisis of the moment,” but it did nothing to avert the much greater crisis that is inevitable with our current rate of spending that we must fix immediately.
A great deal of what you read and hear about Koch Industries is erroneous or misleading. Indeed, there was false information presented about Koch on the Senate floor by Senate Majority Leader Reid, who claimed yesterday that Koch was behind the shutdown of the federal government in an effort to defund the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare.” Because several of you have asked what our position is on this issue, we want to set the record straight and correct this misinformation.
Koch believes that Obamacare will increase deficits, lead to an overall lowering of standards of health care in America, and raise taxes. However, Koch has not taken a position on the legislative tactic of tying the continuing resolution to defunding Obamacare nor have we lobbied on legislative provisions defunding Obamacare.
Instead, Koch has focused on educating the public about reducing our nation’s debt and controlling runaway government spending. We believe that Congress should, at a minimum, keep to sequester-level spending guidelines, and develop a plan for more significant and widespread spending reductions in the future. We also believe that Congress should work to rein-in rampant government spending so that it becomes no longer necessary to continually raise the debt ceiling.
Congress should focus on these efforts: balancing the budget, tightening and cutting government spending, curbing cronyism, and eliminating market-distorting subsidies and mandates.
We are hopeful this sets the record straight and that in the future Senator Reid and other politicians will stop misrepresenting and distorting Koch’s positions.
President, Government & Public Affairs
Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC
He told the audience that despite is not just about what we’ll do next week or even in 2014. The challenge, he said, is changing the nation’s long-term financial trajectory.
On the rollout of ObamaCare, he said that he tried to enroll but failed. He said he was sympathetic with the challenges in rolling out the information technology that implements ObamaCare, but it’s a challenge that should never have been undertaken.
He said he recognizes the risks to the economy that the debt ceiling issue poses. He said we have to take on the obligations of the next 10 to 15 years and we have to do it now.
Pompeo also spoke about government accountability. “It is so easy to spend your money,” he said. “You can be a hero, you can go to ribbon cuttings, … but I have to tell you that when politicians do that in today’s financial situation, they are doing nothing short of lying to you. I use that term intentionally, and with malice aforethought. Because to say they’re misleading you would imply there’s some chance they don’t know that. And they do. This is not politics. This is math.”
On Syria, Pompeo said he’s heard Republicans say we should stay out of the Middle East. But Pompeo said there are from 10,000 to 30,000 soldiers there today. When politicians imply that if we don’t launch some missiles into Syria we’ll be “out” of the Middle East, that is untrue, he said, and “perpetrated with malice aforethought.”
It’s been rumored that he’s been thinking about it, and it now looks like Dr. Milton Wolf will join the race for the Republican Party nomination for United States Senate. The other declared candidate is the incumbent, Pat Roberts. At least I don’t think Wolf would have an event like you’re invited to (see below) just to say no, he’s not running.
Tomorrow the Wichita City Council will consider a redevelopment plan for the Exchange Place project in downtown Wichita. Despite having shed the problems with the former owners, the project has become an even worse deal for the taxpayers of Wichita, Kansas, and the nation. Those looking for jobs and for investment capital to meet consumer demands are worse off, too.
Here’s what the city council agenda packet gives as the sources of financing for this project.
HUD Loan Amount $29,087,700 Private Equity 5,652,254 Tax Credit Equity 19,370,395 TIF Proceeds 12,500,000 Total Sources of Funds $66,610,349
Consider each of these sources of funding. TIF, or tax increment financing, diverts future increased tax revenues away from their normal uses and diverts them back to the project. In this case, the city will borrow $12,500,000 by selling bonds. It will give this money to the developer. Then, TIF proceeds will be used to repay these bonds.
It sounds innocent, even beneficient and desirable. But if this project was not built within a TIF district, it would add $12,500,000 in tax revenues to the city, county, and school district. This is called “building up the tax base,” something politicians and bureaucrats say is an important goal. Downtown Wichita, however, has not done well in this regard, despite the claim of hundreds of millions in investment.
City leaders will tell us that tax increment financing is needed for economic development. Regarding the effect of tax increment financing districts on economic development, economists Richard F. Dye and David F. Merriman have studied tax increment financing extensively. Their paper The Effects of Tax Increment Financing on Economic Development bluntly states the overall impact of TIF: “We find clear and consistent evidence that municipalities that adopt TIF grow more slowly after adoption than those that do not.”
Later in the same paper the authors conclude: “These findings suggest that TIF trades off higher growth in the TIF district for lower growth elsewhere. This hypothesis is bolstered by other empirical findings.”
What about the effect of tax increment financing on job creation, that being another goal mentioned by politicians and bureaucrats? One person who has looked at the effect of TIF on jobs is Paul F. Byrne of Washburn University. He authored a recent report titled Does Tax Increment Financing Deliver on Its Promise of Jobs? The Impact of Tax Increment Financing on Municipal Employment Growth. In its abstract we find this conclusion regarding the impact of TIF on jobs: “Results find no general impact of TIF use on employment. However, findings suggest that TIF districts supporting industrial development may have a positive effect on municipal employment, whereas TIF districts supporting retail development have a negative effect on municipal employment.” This project is a retail project, and can be expected to have a negative effect on employment.
Another bad aspect of this project for citizens is what city documents describe as “tax credit equity.” The amount is $19,370,395. This is understatement at its finest. Tax credits are a direct transfer from taxpayers to the project developers, with very few strings attached.
A tax credit is an appropriation of money made through the tax system and economically equivalent to a direct grant of money. Recently some have started to use the word “tax appropriations” or “tax expenditures” to describe tax credits in recognition of this. These expenditures don’t go through the normal legislative process as do most appropriations. If the Kansas Legislature and United States Congress are not comfortable with writing this developer a check for over $19,000,000, they should not make a roundabout contribution through the tax system that has the same economic impact on the state’s and nation’s finances.
Citizens will be told that the tax credits are needed because rehabbing historic buildings is expensive. We should let politicians and bureaucrats know that living or working in a historic building is a premium amenity that one chooses, just like one might choose granite counter tops in their kitchen. We shouldn’t expect others to pay for these voluntary choices.
Then, there’s a “HUD Loan Amount,” which is actually a loan guarantee of $29,087,700. U.S. taxpayers are liable for this amount of money should the project not meet its projections.
The subsides to this project have real costs. This development will require services from the city, county, and school district, yet it won’t be contributing its full share of property taxes. So someone else has to pay.
The tax credits represent money that has to be made up by taxpayers across Kansas and the nation. Again, someone else has to pay. Since Kansas applies sales tax to food, even poor people buying groceries will be contributing to the cost of the grants given to this project through state tax credits.
We’ll be told that there’s a “funding gap” that taxpayers must step forward to fill. Why does that gap exist? It’s simple: Markets have decided that this project is not worth what it costs. If it was worth what it’s going to cost, and if the developer is reputable (as we’ve been promised), markets would be willing to fund the project. This happens every day all across the country, even during recessions.
What the city is proposing to do is to take risks with the taxpayers’ money that no one is willing to take with their own. Further, the spending and credit that is diverted from markets to this project wastes capital. There is less capital available for projects that people value, because it is diverted to projects that politicians and bureaucrats value.
The difficulty is that it’s easy to see the new project. The groundbreaking and ribbon cutting ceremonies that commemorate government intervention will be covered by television and newspapers. Politicians and bureaucrats are drawn to these events and will spend taxpayer funds to make sure you’re aware of them.
It’s more difficult to see that the harm that government intervention causes. That harm is dispersed and more difficult to spot. But the harm is real. If it is not, then we need to ask why our governments don’t do more of this type of development.
Driving by a development in a TIF district and noticing a building or people working at jobs does not tell the entire story. Recognizing the existence of a building, or the payment of taxes, or jobs created, is “stage one” thinking, and no more than that.
It’s hard to think beyond stage one. It requires considering not only the seen, but also the unseen, as Frederic Bastiat taught us in his famous parable of the broken window. It also requires thinking of the long term effects of a policy, not just the immediate. But over and over again we see how politicians at all levels of government stop thinking at stage one. This is one of the many reasons why we need to return as much decision-making as possible to the private sector, and drastically limit the powers of politicians and governments.