The Media

Dennis Rehberg Suddenly Gets Religion on Earmarks

Call me a cynic, but I find the editorial blitz today lauding Dennis Rehberg’s proposal to reform the earmark process to be a bit puzzling. One would expect that the experienced political observers who write Montana’s editorials could smell an election year ploy like this from a mile away, but maybe the snow in clouded their judgment.

It doesn’t take a politically astute observer to note that Rehberg never supported earmark reform when the Republicans controlled the Congress and he could have actually passed his proposal. The opposition party always condemns excessive Congressional spending; that’s about as newsworthy as Rush Limbaugh visiting a pharmacy. If Rehberg were a real leader, concerned about the budget, he no doubt would have been a leader on this issue since he was elected.

His transparent partisanship becomes even more clear when one reads the Billings Gazette, in its report about the proposal. Mr. Bipartisan Budget Slasher hasn’t even talked to Democrats about the idea:

While emphasizing that earmarking is a bipartisan problem, the Republican sponsors said they have not yet talked with any Democrats about their effort. They said it was important to get their own party on the same page before reaching out to others.

It’s finally worth noting that Rehberg’s proposal has zero credibility, when you consider his record on earmarking. The entire Burns-Rehberg re-election strategy in 2006 was centered around the amount of pork each brought home; to believe that Rehberg really wants to reform the system is absurd. Rehberg has personally inserted language in bills to appropriate funds that were on face absurd, like his $250,000 proposal to support the MSLEC e-learning program in Montana, a program that was dying on the vine as the ink dried on the bill.

Finally, one might suggest that the newspapers touting this proposal scrutinize their own practices a bit more carefully. Do they ever critically report on a Rehberg press release about an earmark? Not that I’ve seen. If the Fourth Estate were more aggressive about policing these expenditures, rather than writing platitudes about excessive spending while praising individual expenditures, the truly egregious spending may come to a halt on its own.

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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