Congress Using Commemorative Coins As New Earmark

Friday, 27 Apr 2012 11:07 AM

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Since the ban on all official earmarks, inventive lawmakers have engineered more clandestine ways to bring home the pork to their districts or to reward supporters. The latest device: the authorization of commemorative coins, according to a just-released investigative report by The Heritage Foundation.

Sly investigators noted that the 112th Congress introduced 14 commemorative coin bills, a significant trend upward from the relative modest use of this seemingly innocuous honor. From Mother’s Day to the National Future Farmers of America, a multitude of laudable causes netted commemorative coin legislation during the session.

The heritage sleuths took a close look as Rep. Peter Roksam, R-Ill, introduced legislation authorizing a commemorative coin honoring the Lions Club, a service organization based in his district.

Proceeds from the coin are used for the cost of producing the coins. However, the legislation goes on to dictate: “All surcharges received by the Secretary from the sale of coins issued under this Act shall be promptly paid by the Secretary to the Lions Clubs International Foundation for the purposes.”

Bottom line: After covering the costs of production, the special bill funnels federal funds to an organization in Roksam’s home district. What walks, talks, and quacks like a duck must be . . . an earmark, conclude investigators.

Quickly, other post-earmark ban examples were flushed out:
  • Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., introduced the Mark Twain Commemorative Coin Act, which would steer a quarter of the surcharges to the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in his district. Another quarter would go to the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Conn., represented by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
  •  Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., established a coin for the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., which sits in his district.
  •  Rep. James Renacci, R-Ohio, introduced similar legislation for the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, a town he represents.
  • “For all intents and purposes, this is an earmark,” says Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., referring in particular to the Baseball Hall of Fame bill examples. “And it’s far beyond the proper scope of the federal government to act as a sales agent for a private group.”

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