3 in Hawai'i delegation won't divulge earmarks
By Dennis Camire
Advertiser Washington Bureau
By Dennis Camire
WASHINGTON — Even while supporting more transparency in the controversial process known as "earmarking," three members of Hawai'i's congressional delegation declined to reveal their requests this year for such funding.
Earmarks are federal funds dedicated to projects in a lawmaker's home state and programs popular with local interests.
The state's two senators — Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel Akaka, both of them Democrats — voted for a bill yesterday that would require earmarks to be more public and easier to strip out of legislation.
The bill, approved 90-8, would also toughen lobbying rules.
Both senators, as well as Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawai'i, who backs House proposals to stiffen earmarking rules, declined to make public the earmarks they are seeking this year.
Only Rep. Ed Case, D-Hawai'i, shared his requests, which, if granted, would cost taxpayers more than $1 billion. They range from a $600 million plan to clean up World War II-era military ordnance to $2 million for controlling Caribbean tree frogs.
Case said he doesn't expect to get all the earmarks but believes he has the responsibility to seek money for his district's specific concerns.
The Senate bill and House proposals to tighten rules governing earmarks and make them more visible came as a response to corruption scandals involving former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., and lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Abercrombie said he didn't want to list his earmark requests because "disclosure would put any member of Congress at a disadvantage in the highly competitive appropriations process."
But Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, said earmarks by their very nature are not competitive.
Akaka declined to reveal his earmark requests to protect them from possible attacks from others, said Donalyn Dela Cruz, spokesman for the senator.
Inouye, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, does not disclose his requests, spokesman Mike Yuen said, since "the feeling is that it would be inappropriate to disclose what he is seeking when he sits on the Appropriations Committee because he has to balance not just what he wants for Hawai'i, but also the requests that come in from other states."
Schatz said that in his group's annual ranking of the amount of earmark spending on a per-capita basis, Hawai'i consistently scores in the top three states. Last year, it received $454 per capita, more than 13 times the national average of $33.
Reach Dennis Camire at email@example.com.