The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, July 23, 2004

Texas Cowboys provide a reality check on political pieties

My horizons expanded once more.

The open sesame is home-district projects, also known as earmarks. Or what is more commonly called pork.

Yesterday, Congress approved the DOD appropriations bill [1] HR 4613 - and among legislators with their snouts in the HDP trough is none other that the DEWDROP's Great White Hope, Comstock Nancy Pelosi [2].

The House Appropriations Committee has been at work on the VA-HUD bill [3]: it seems that
lawmakers used a voice vote to add more than 1,100 home-district projects to the measure.

No doubt, some of these projects are worthwhile, and there are some controls over the letting of the related contracts. Hardly conducive to a rational budgetary process, though.

(I assume that these earmarks are distinct from equally pressing political considerations involved in, say, defence procurement - a missile built in California or Texas, depending on the winning contractor, would sway many more votes than titivating a public park, surely!)

Impossible to stop the system, I dare say: back in July 2001, the Administration were banging the anti-pork drum [4] - by November 2003 the drum was long since busted: it's Hog Heaven under Generous George.

Which brings me back to the Texas cowboys: on the list of 1,100 projects is
$75,000 for the Texas Cowboy Reunion Old-Timers Association to upgrade a bunkhouse in Stamford, Texas.

This implausible outfit actually exists.

  1. The THOMAS schedule showing the status of appropriations bills.

  2. Her share is modest (ยง8113 of the final text) -
    $1.9 million for the Presidio park in San Francisco
    - but then there are more appropriations bills to come.

  3. Which, according to the THOMAS status schedule doesn't yet have a bill number.

  4. They use pigskin for that?


My curiosity has been strangely piqued by the Texas Old Timers. Who, I'm led to wonder, is the Congressman who earmarked the 75 Gs for them?

None other than Rep Charlie Stenholm (aka Charles W Stenholm). According to his bio on the site, Stenholm is (amongst other things)
A Blue Dog [and] a Boll Weevil

But a piece in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (January 10) contests this: his report-cards show him drifting liberal since he was first elected to the US House in 1978, though his district has stayed conservative [1].

According to Google, Greg Wythe has a good many pieces on Stenholm, in particular, in connection with the redistricting farrago - this time, he's fighting the (remodelled) 19th District against the incumbent Rep Randy Neugebauer . In his July 13 piece, he says GOP farmers may support Stenholm for the benefit of his position as ranking member on the Agricultural Committee.

Which brings us back to pork...

Enough Stenholm for now: but perhaps I'll return to him. The Dewdrops over at Kos have been breast-beating over the lovely Stephanie Herseth's vote in favour of the HR 3313 (the Marriage Protection Act) - the transpondian equivalent of the Dave Spart tendency much in evidence, though balanced by a good deal of realism.

Amongst other reasons, Stenholm is interesting as testing just how big the tent actually is.

  1. OnTheIssues makes him a Populist Conservative - though the grid puts him on the cusp of moderate. The Project Vote Smart scorecard roundup I haven't the patience to plough through. He scored zip in '03 with NARAL, I notice.

    ProgressivePunch ranks him as the second least liberal Dem House member.

    The ranking is singular for showing that no GOP member is more liberal than the most conservative Dem (Gene Taylor of MS). I am naturally inclined to suspect that the ranking method used was selected precisely to generate that result: from the viewpoint of selling the party nationally, it must be a great help to be able to assure voters that, no matter how conservative a Dem candidate might seem to be, he is guaranteed more liberal than the most liberal GOP guy. But my meagre statistical skills don't extend as far as checking the method for bias.

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