As the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein reports, the GOP’s new “Pledge to America” was directed by a staffer named Brian Wild, who until early this year, was a lobbyist at a prominent DC firm that lobbied on behalf of corporate giants like Exxon. Moreover, the insurance industry is the leading contributor to Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the Republican who led the effort. Consistent with its desire to placate lobbyists, the 21-page “Pledge” omits any mention of a key Republican mantra: a ban on earmarks.
Lobbyists have long supported the practice of “earmarking,” a maneuver that allows lobbyists to cajole members of Congress to add pet projects to appropriations bills. While it’s no surprise that the lobbyist-authored document drops any discussion of “earmarking,” it is nevertheless an interesting pivot for Republicans.
On March 11, 2010, House Republicans adopted a one-year moratorium on all earmarks, urging Republicans in the Senate and Democrats in Congress “to follow their lead.” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) touted the decision as “an important step toward showing the American people we’re serious about reform.” While Democrats announced a ban on earmarks for private companies the day before, Boehner wanted to “put [all earmarks] on the line to win” the November elections. Republicans touted their measure as a message that they were going to “cleanse themselves” of corruption and bring about “a culture of change”:
— Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA): “People are so upset. Earmarks are such a symbol of the problem in Washington. We know the moratorium doesn’t fix the problem but it certainly is the beginning. It’s the recognition that we need to change the culture.” [Link]
— Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI): “The way I see it with this earmark moratorium is we have finally begun to cleanse ourselves of the corruption that occurred when Republicans were in the majority.” [Link]
— Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA): “On the flight in this week, it just happened that sitting next to me was Gary Hart. We were having a kind of generational talk about Washington. And one of the things he pointed out was wrong with Washington was earmarks. He said Republicans and Democrats had both been poisoned by earmarks…we lost our principles.” [Link]
— Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX): “An earmark moratorium, until the abuses can be stopped, is the strongest signal that Republicans understand the spending mistakes of the past and can govern in a fiscally responsible manner in the future…this moratorium shows we are dead serious about ‘rebooting the computer’ and cleaning out the junk in the earmark system.” [Link]
— Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN): Republicans are determined “to end earmarks as we know them.” [Link]
Given the lobbyist influence in drafting the “Pledge to America,” we’ve mocked up a page that the GOP leadership should consider including in the document:
On MSNBC this afternoon, Norah O’Donnell confronted Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) about whether lobbyists influenced the “Pledge.” Thornberry responded, “I don’t know that they were. Let me just tell you I dealt primarily with the national security section. I know of no lobbyist participating.”
,While Republicans may be “leaving the door open to allowing earmarks,” Rep. Paul Ryan insisted on ABC’s Good Morning America today that “we’re going to continue this earmark ban. We’ve already done the earmark ban. That’s why its not in the pledge.”