Friday, March 14, 2008

Sen. Tester and earmarks

The ever-vigilant Western Word has told the story that amazingly enough (note: sarcasm alert) didn't get told in the Billings Gazette today.

The Gazette notes that Sen. Tester, like Sen. Baucus, voted against a moratorium on earmarks. Earmarks are a common way that pork-barrel projects get put through without debating the merits of the project.

There is a case to be made for earmarks, so the vote is not necessarily bad for Montana. The point, as Western Word notes, is that during the campaign, Tester used earmarks as a baseball bat to beat then Sen. Conrad Burns over the head.

Tester's spokespeople are now trying to say that he never opposed earmarks, unfortunately for them, Western Word has done the research:

That reply is not true. Not even partly true. During an October 9, 2006, PBS debate in Bozeman, Tester said, “I don’t support earmarks, period.” A few seconds later, he added, “I’m not for earmarks.”

A link is provided to check out the video of the debate.

So why isn't the vigilant Montana press doing this kind of homework, and asking hard questions of Sen. Tester? Why doesn't the Gazette article mention Tester's constant beating of the drum against earmarks in his campaign challenge to Burns?

There are a few options that Tester could say and be truthful, but one of those options would not appear to be the lie that he has chosen to use: that he was "never against earmarks."

So what could he say and be truthful and believable?

"Look, I was just clueless, and didn't know what I was talking about back then. I was wrong. I didn't know that earmarks were good for Montana -- or that they would be good for my later political posturing.

I just said what I needed to say to get elected."


"Look, I never thought there was anything wrong with earmarks, and I knew good and well that once I was Senator, I would earmark with the best of them in order to bring spending projects to Montana so I could get re-elected.

I just said what I need to say to get elected, and knew I would likely get a free ride from the press on the issue."

Montana Headlines has time and again pointed out that Tester has repeatedly failed to support real earmark reform -- and it's not because there haven't been any opportunities to sign on to meaningful legislation. There have been plenty. This is just one of many examples of where "squeaky clean" Sen. Tester campaigned one way and is playing the Washington game in quite another. Not that this should surprise anyone -- it certainly doesn't surprise us.

Too bad the Montana press, which rode to Sen. Tester's rescue in his campaign against Sen. Burns, isn't showing any signs of playing "watchdog" on any of these questions. That watchdog role doesn't seem nearly as important now that Gov. Martz and Sen. Burns have been dispensed with.


Anonymous said...

Montana is second only to West Virginia in earmarks dollars per capita, I think. Second or Third.

I got my Fed Reserve paper today and it's all about pork.

People in Bozeman lost millions when John Tester was elected, because Clark Johnson, former Bozeman City Manager, was Burns' chief of staff. He'd send a nickel to bozeman if he picked one off a Washington street.

The money for the fairgrounds ice rink was the first casualty, four hundred thousand or so, but Burns got millions for MSU and Bozeman. Tester's earmark comment caused quite a stir here.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, ever since Tester and other Democrats were elected to MTs major offices, the press made the magical switch from watchdog to lapdog. (pretty ironic isn't it?)

Another example of this happening is the case of Tester and one of his benfactors, Norman Hsu. Hsu has been in court in New York City a couple times in the past few weeks. On Feb. 28 he pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he cheated investors out of $20 million. He was in court again Friday.

Hsu raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Democratic officials, including Hillary Clinton, and he steered almost $5000 in donations from associates to Tester. Tester later realized how tainted the money was and returned it, but the horse was out of the barn.

Considering that the press used to run stories connecting Conrad Burns to Jack Abramoff every time that Abramoff passed gas, you would think that it would be newsworthy when Hsu appears in court. But so far no MT paper has noted Hsu's court appearances or what they might mean for Tester.

Instead, the press are patting Tester on the head for the great job he is doing bringing more "ethics" to the Senate.

Montana Headlines said...

We won't be second for long, now that we don't have anyone on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Would we have wished that Conrad had been a fiscal conservative who fought to keep spending down, rather that just trying to bring bacon home to Montana? Probably.

But what we have now is the worst of both worlds -- two big-spending Democrats who can't bring home money to Montana because they're not on the right committees.

Contrary to popular mythology, having Baucus on the Finance Committee doesn't do much for Montana. It does wonders for his ability to shake down lobbyists for his re-election campaign, but that's not exactly the kind of "power" that helps Montana.

Regarding Hsu, we have already commented on the fact that he raised money for Tester somehow never shows up in articles about Hsu in the Montana press. Isn't that strange? (Sarcasm alert.)