Sunday, June 29, 2008

Self-Promoting Earmarks

Posted by on Sun, Jun 29, 2008 at 6:43 PM

By: Jeremy Alford

Rep. Elbert Guillory, an Opelousas Democrat, has requested $450,000 in taxpayer money for a nonprofit group that teaches young people homemaking and workforce skills.

In previous years, such earmarks may have been called slush funds or “development grants,” but these days they’re simply called NGOs, or nongovernmental organizations. Lawmakers insert the earmarks into the state’s operating budget, which can be found in House Bill 1, which is now on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s desk. Jindal has power under the state constitution to “line item veto” specific appropriations he does not like. He’ll have no shortage of targets this year, with money slated for a fishing tournament, a hot-air balloon foundation, high school alumni groups and more. Guillory’s earmark holds a special place in House Bill 1 because it supports “Serving People in District 40.” It should come as no surprise that House District 40 is represented by Guillory. He is not alone in wanting to control the pork once it leaves the Capitol. Sen. Ann Duplessis, D-New Orleans, has a $550,000 earmark for the “District 2 Community Enhancement.” It doesn’t take a legislative analyst to figure out which district she represents. She uses the group as a youth outreach vehicle, holding fashion shows and other events, and to spread money around the community, like providing local police officers with bulletproof vests. Duplessis also is the author of Senate Bill 672, the measure that increases lawmakers’ annual salaries.

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