There’s something fishy in the Farm Bill, and taxpayers should beware. It’s a $170 million earmark for the salmon industry, quietly tucked into the mammoth bill at the last minute by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA). I don’t know much about the salmon industry. Perhaps Pelosi and Thompson can explain why it was necessary to earmark $170 million of the taxpayers’ money with no public scrutiny or debate. The earmark wasn’t in the House-passed Farm Bill or the Senate version; it was simply “air-dropped” into the final bill in secret.
The Farm Bill has often been abused by politicians as a slush fund for bizarre earmarks and wasteful spending projects, and the latest version up for a vote on the House floor this week is no different. During Farm Bill negotiations, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) slipped in a targeted earmark to help the Plum Creek Timber Company in Montana sell a parcel of land to the scandal-tarnished “environmental group,” the Nature Conservancy. The earmark allows the Nature Conservancy to claim a $250 million “tax refund” – even though, as a non-profit they don’t actually pay taxes. But instead of being open and honest about their intentions to spend $250 million in taxpayer money, Democrats attempted to keep it secret by crafting the provision to ensure the funds go only to a federal forest project of a certain size that also has fish. That’s right. Fish. In a forest. Forest fish. In the whole country, only one tract fits the bill – and it happens to be located in Senator Baucus’ home state of Montana.
These examples serve as a perfect illustration of why taxpayers are fed up with a broken Washington. Despite the Speaker’s promises to “drain the swamp” at the beginning of the 110th Congress, it has become increasingly clear why Democrats are fighting as hard as they can to keep the earmark factory open on Capitol Hill. Not only have Democratic leaders have “showered” their newly-elected Members in pork in the attempt to help them win re-election, but their senior members – including the “King of Pork,” Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) – have made it clear that wasteful earmarks are here to stay.