One Last Bite of Pork
How Republican senators manage to request and oppose earmarks at the same time.
And this is where the "making famous" part comes in. Stopping Republicans from requesting earmarks started with a pledge, but it's enforced by shame and embarrassment. Since the 2008 election, McCain has found an ideal format for humiliating senators and generating stories for reporters who love tales of government waste or screwed-over-consumers. He tweets them. He, and all earmark opponents, look for the stupidest-sounding earmarks and rattle them off like fat jokes.
The oddity today was that none of Cornyn or Thune's requests were particularly silly-sounding. Look at transportation funding. Thune requested $500,000 for "Rapid City Regional Airport Terminal Expansion"; $750,000 for "I-29/I-229 Bridges and Interstate Mainline Reconstruction From Near Tea Exit to North of 69th Street and East to Louise Avenue"; $150,000 for "Ghost Hawk Road Improvements (BIA Route 7 to SD Hwy 18)"; $1 million for "Improvements and 4 R Work to SD 73 in Jackson County"; and $400,000 for something called the "Domestic Violence Building Project." Cornyn requests include $750,000 for "West Ninth Avenue Extension and Overpass Construction, Belton"; $1 million for the "VIA Fredericksburg Road Bus Rapid Transit Corridor"; $3.5 million for "Surface Transportation Improvements on U.S. 287 Business Route, Fort Worth"; $2 million for "Loop 82 Railroad Overpass, San Marcos"; and $500,000 for "the Denton Downtown Improvement Project to upgrade the streets and streetscape."
After this year, under the Republican pledge, Republican senators won't even be permitted to request boring-sounding civic improvements like these. The Ron Paul strategy of high-minded hypocrisy will work for Ron Paul, but not them. Try it, and get embarrassed by the press, just like what happened today.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who co-sponsored (and really championed) that 2006 transparency legislation with Obama, made an Excel spreadsheet of earmarks available on his Web site. In doing so, he warned that it only would help citizens discover the "disclosed" earmarks and not the "billions in undisclosed earmarks." And if you don't disclose, you can't become famous.
David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at email@example.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.
Photograph of Sen. John Cornyn and Sen. John Thune by Win McNamee/Getty Images.