Robert Bluey

Just when it appeared House Republicans had turned the corner on earmark reform, party leaders did the unthinkable. They picked pork-loving Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) for the vacant seat on the Appropriations Committee, bypassing conservatives such as Reps. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.). In doing so, the Republicans missed a golden opportunity to show they were committed to real reform.

Bonner may talk a good game when it comes to earmark reform. His record, however, is abysmal. The three-term Republican scored just 2% on the Club for Growth’s 2007 RePORK Card, meaning he voted for just one of the 50 anti-pork amendments offered by conservatives. That’s the same score as liberal Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Bill Jefferson (D-La.) and Jim Moran (D-Va.). Musgrave, meanwhile, notched a score of 94%. And Flake not only supported all 50 amendments, he introduced many of them.

Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips called the appointment “a huge missed opportunity for true earmark reform and for the Republican Party.” Phillips acknowledged that it was always possible for Bonner to “see the light and change [his] past habits,” but history usually serves as a pretty good guide to the future -- particularly in Washington.

Another taxpayer watchdog, FreedomWorks, organized a campaign called “Make It Flake” to support the Arizona Republican. Following the news of Bonner’s selection, FreedomWorks’ Chris Kinnan discovered this disturbing entry on Bonner’s congressional Web site:

“The direct appropriation is very difficult to obtain as funding is extremely limited. However, it is not impossible, and I am proud of our accomplishments in steering funds through this method to many worthy south Alabama projects.”

Bonner’s long history of securing pork for his district -- as well as voting for egregious earmarks on the House floor -- has left groups like FreedomWorks skeptical. The group’s chairman, Dick Armey, said Bonner should pledge to swear off all earmarks this year if he’s serious about cleaning up the favor factory.

Robert Bluey

Robert B. Bluey is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation and maintains a blog at