SID SALTER: Here’s hoping congressional earmarks define Senate race

SID SALTER

SID SALTER

Before Club for Growth and others engage in revisionist history over the question of congressional earmarks in Mississippi’s 2014 U.S. Senate campaign, let’s reflect on the record.

The ink wasn’t dry on Cochran’s confirmation that he would seek a seventh term as Mississippi’s senator before the Club for Growth issued a statement calling Cochran “a strong supporter of wasteful earmarks – something opposed by Republican leaders in both the Senate and the House.”

That little bit of verbal sleight of hand ignores the fact that Cochran is among the Republican leadership in Congress and that the vast majority of members in both houses in both parties utilized congressionally directed spending or “earmarks” for decades until it became politically unpopular.

And it ignores the fact that without congressionally directed spending, the discretion in federal spending is left to President Barack Obama and his Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and it ignores that through phone calls, emails and other “soft” earmarks, congressional efforts to direct spending continues virtually unimpeded today.

But let’s be clear: Mississippi’s senior Republican U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran has been a prolific master of using congressionally directed spending or “earmarks” to direct federal spending to the benefit of his Mississippi constituents.

From the 2008 Appropriations bills, Cochran made these scandalous earmarks among many others: $54 million for Mississippi River levees; $28 million for the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway; $25 million for the Delta Health Alliance; $10 million for the Pascagoula Harbor; $9.8 million for the DeSoto County Regional Wastewater System; $7.6 million for the National Guard; $5.4 million for the Jackson County Water Supply; $5 million for the Gulfport Harbor; $3.7 million for the Stennis Space Center; $3 million for the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Arthur C. Guyton Building’s renovation; $735,000 Hattiesburg Area Development Partnership; $686,000 for the Tallahatchie County Courthouse restoration; $472,000 for beaver control, $98,000 for Fulton’s wastewater treatment facility; and the list goes on.

Over the course of his career in Congress, Cochran has directed federal spending to Mississippi for projects like those and others that concentrated on public education, public health and safety, the national defense, research, and quality of life issues in communities large and small. Few areas have been influenced more by Cochran in Mississippi than transportation through federal highway spending.

So in truth, the Club of Growth may draw applause from their members of trying to pillory Cochran on congressionally directed spending, but they will be hard–pressed to find a long line of Mississippi legislators, mayors, county supervisors or small businessmen ready to tar and feather Cochran for fighting for a small share of the federal pie for Mississippians for worthwhile public projects.

Earmarks in 2010 represented less than one half of one percent of federal spending. Cochran has defended the balance that congressionally directed spending brings to the appropriations process and the dangers of ceding the field to the executive branch on this issue – and he’s right about that.

But if some of the outside groups that already are spending money in an effort to “primary” Thad Cochran want to make this race about earmarks, then he should gladly welcome that debate.

The list of cities, counties, communities and institutions in the state that have benefitted from Cochran’s wise use of discretionary spending and willingness to not allow federal spending to congeal in the largest states with the largest congressional delegations is a record he can easily defend.

The citizens of Fulton – who needed a wastewater treatment system overhaul – pay federal taxes. There is nothing sinister or “liberal” or unpatriotic about a veteran senator directing some of those federal dollars back there to help pay for that public works project.

But if earmarks are to be the battleground of Cochran’s reelection campaign, it will be a rather short battle.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist.Contact him at sidsalter@sidsalter.com or(601) 507–8004.

  • chewinmule

    Sid, you just don’t get it do you, son. “Tit-for-Tat”, which is what got us where we are, ain’t where it is at. Pork coming to Mississippi more often than not comes with a commitment by the senator to “scratch a back” in the name of bipartisanship.
    So, you are saying we should continue to vote him in and be happy he’s getting money for his constituents. That “begging for scraps” surely must be a tough job as it appears he has very little concern for the size of the “pork spending” of 100 senators.

    As a citizen of this great state I am sick and tired of MS being seen as the dog worthy only of fallen orts from the table of Federal largess. He knows the ins and outs of gaming the system after 40 odd years and has totally forgotten We The People, sport.

    Climb in the tank, sing his praises, go along to get along, tout his abilities and you’ll be welcomed to bump with the elites? I declare him as one of the reasons why we are in the shape we are in. Mike Parker, ex Democrat, unsuccessful Republican Gubernatorial candidate, and now a lobbyist along with Dickie’s brother-in-law Trent and bosom buddy Breaux are gonna be at the table with Haley so mind your manners.

    • Cindy Wood Wilkerson

      When did we become a society that depends on Gov to get things done?? The Gov has contributed to Mississippi’s poverty more than any other factor. They have even created a corporate welfare to get business/industry on the hook. The ONLY group that gets no welfare, no help is the MIDDLE WORKING CLASS.. WE ARE THE TEA PARTY. This HAS to stop.. Vote Cochran and when you are unsatisfied with the state of Gov, Look in the mirror. We complain about Congress… They are at a 17% favorable rating… WELL, that is because the SAME PEOPLE have been there for decades and they helped create this mess and cannot be trusted to fix it. Cochran is FRAIL, 76 seems confused at times and it is time for him to retire. We will work TIRELESSLY to defeat Cochran on the issues.

      • TWBDB

        I say vote every Federal or State Crony out of office: frankly I don’t care which party they’re affiliated with. I’m sick and tired of the lies and garbage coming from all of them. Vote ‘NO’ on every single person who aligns themselves with the farce known as the Tea Party. Think about it: exactly what does MS have that the federal government wants to take away: money, natural resources, intellectual property, what? You damn sure don’t want MS’s health and end of life care model to spread throughout the land.

  • Cindy Wood Wilkerson

    Why are federal Tax Dollars paying for Renovations on our College Campus’, Court Houses and other such projects. That is inappropriate use of resources. That is supposed to be the reason University raise Funds and collect Tuition. If a FRACTION of the FUNDS gained from the Football programs were put back into the school vs into making Football everything bigger and better maybe they would not have to pander for Federal dollars. Thanks for proving further that Cochran has lost sight of his constitutional obligation and in the midst of 17 TRILLION Debt, does not care at all the legacy or quality of life he is leaving future genereations.

  • chewinmule
  • vechorik

    “Sid Salter’s column attacking the Club for Growth for opposing Senator Thad Cochran’s stance on the practice of pork barrel spending, otherwise known as “earmarking” deserves a response.”

    Chris Chocola gives a good one:
    http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20131212/COL10/131212004/Chris-Chocola-Salter-attack-Club-Growth-lacked-all-facts

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