Watchdog Group: Obama’s Earmarks Policy a ‘Charade’

Tuesday, 20 Mar 2012 12:16 PM

By John Bachman

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Watchdog group Cause of Action is suing the White House for access to records relating to the practice known as “agency earmarking.” Agency earmarks are also known as administration earmarks and include grants, awards, and guaranteed loans.

“With administration earmarks, the public gets no information about how a certain bidder got a grant that gives them taxpayer dollars,” Cause of Action executive director Dan Epstein told Newsmax.TV during an exclusive interview.

“We have somewhat of a charade. The president has said he’s going to have some sort of moratorium on congressional earmarks, but at the same time he’s said this, there has been a 154 percent increase in federal spending that has occurred in non-contractual awards.

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“The president has the ability to directly influence the spending process outside the oversight of congressional appropriations,” Epstein said.

Administration, or agency, earmarks are different from congressional earmarks because those federal funds are not subject a public bidding process.

“Federal money might be going to entities in a non-competitive or, in fact, a more politicized way,” Epstein said.

He said one example of an administration earmark is the $535 billion loan guarantee given to the now-defunct solar firm Solyndra.

Epstein cited a Heritage Foundation report that studied 12 government agencies accused of abusing the process.

“The Heritage Foundation showed that there were three spikes in federal grant making during fiscal year 2010 and fiscal year 2009. Those three spikes happened during key votes in the House of Representatives – cap and trade, consumer financial protection, and healthcare reform.

Epstein said the conclusion was that “this grant money was being used to buy the votes” of Congress.

“It’s basically what some members of Congress have dubbed walking-around money and it can be abused,” he added.

Epstein said Cause of Action decided to sue the Obama administration’s Office of Management and Budget after waiting six months for a response to its initial records request on administration earmarks. He said the public has a right to see any and all information that shows how the White House, and its agencies make decisions to award grants and loans.

“The Office of Management and Budget continues to delay us. Which leads us to the inference that, now that we have filed suit, the Office of Management and Budget did not want to produce the records.

“If it turns out to be the case that federal taxpayer money has been used for political purposes and has been spent in an uncompetitive manner, that makes the administration look incredibly bad at the time that it's worrying about elections,” Epstein said.

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