Dutch Ruppersberger v. Nancy Jacobs: Earmarks and campaign contributions.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A couple of days ago, Next Contestant published an article entitled, “Earmarks: Incumbent business as usual in Washington,” in which there is a table showing the number and value of the earmarks which were sponsored by Maryland’s representatives in the House and Senate.

According to Rob Portman, then Director of the Administration’s Office of Management and Budget, writing in a memo dated January 25, 2007,

Earmarks are funds provided by the Congress for projects or programs where the congressional direction (in bill or report language) circumvents the merit-based or competitive allocation process, or specifies the location or recipient, or otherwise curtails the ability of the Administration to control critical aspects of the funds allocation process.

The italics, bolding and underlining are mine.

Mr. Portman was right, of course, about the circumventing and curtailing, but there’s another problem with earmarks. That other problem is whether or not those earmarks were for sale.

Did the incumbent sponsor the earmark in return for campaign contributions?

To be somewhat less offensive, money buys access. Did the campaign contributions give the contributor access to the incumbent that resulted in the earmark?

Maybe the contributors simply made their contributions because they appreciated the Representative’s or Senator’s point of view on matters of interest to the contributor. Maybe all the contributor wanted to do, innocently enough, was to support the candidates election? (Would the earmarks have happened even if the contributions hadn’t been forthcoming?)

Were the contributions and earmarks completely unrelated and all we have is the appearance, but not the fact of unethical behavior?

I’m not sure what’s happened. All I know for certain is that I don’t like earmarks and, call me cynical, but the older I get, the less I believe in coincidences where money is involved.

Being the curious type, I decided to compare the list of campaign contributions published by the Federal Election Commission to the list of earmarks sponsored by Maryland Congressional incumbents. Next Contestant will be doing the same for other Maryland incumbents, but this article is about Dutch Ruppersberger, the five term Democrat incumbent running against Maryland State Senator Nancy Jacobs, his Republican challenger. More specifically, it’s about four companies that benefited from earmarks that were co-sponsored by the Congressman.

Please keep the following in mind:

First, it’s difficult to compare contributions to earmarks because the names of the PACs (political action committees) giving money to campaigns don’t necessarily indicate the source of those funds. Further research into the makeup of these PACs might indicate a larger problem.

Second, we only have earmarks data for federal fiscal years 2008, 2009 and 2010. There are, in other words, earmarks our comparison didn’t take into account.

Third, what I’m about to show you are coincidences between contributors and the beneficiaries of earmarks that may or may not have implications that should concern us. At the very least, they are cause for further investigation.

Here now are the four instances of coincidence. All are from fiscal 2010. All four were attached to the Defense appropriations bill for that fiscal year. All four were, of course, sponsored by Congressman Ruppersberger.

1. A $3.2 million earmark benefited Raytheon Applied Signal Technology, Inc. Of the 406 committees that, according to FEC data, have made 1,787 contributions to Congressman Ruppersberger’s various Congressional campaigns, 16 of those contributions, totaling $38,000, were made by Raytheon Company Political Action Committee. Congressman Ruppersberger’s co-sponsors were Maryland’s Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R), Congressman John Sarbanes (D) and Senator Ben Cardin (D).

2. A $1.6 million earmark that benefited AAI Corporation and Electronic Warfare Associates, Inc. According to FEC data, Mr. Ruppersberger’s campaigns have received 17 contributions totaling $17,000 from the AAI Corporation Political Action Committee. His co-sponsor was Representative Kevin McCarthy (D) of California, the House Majority Whip.

3. A $4.0 million earmark that benefited Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems. Mr. Ruppersberger’s campaigns have received 20 contributions totaling $42,000 from the Employees of Northrop Grumman Corporation Political Action Committee – plus $25,050 from 22 individual contributors who named Northrop Grumman as their employers. His co-sponsors were Maryland’s Representatives Frank Kratovil (D), and Senators Barbara Mikulski (D) and Ben Cardin (D).

4. A $5.0 million earmark that benefited Smith Detection, Inc. whose PAC, Smiths Group Services Corporation Political Action Committee, has given Congressman Ruppersberger’s campaigns 6 contributions totaling $7,800, plus another $3,500 from 5 Smith’s employees. Congressman Ruppersberger’s co-sponsors were Maryland’s Representatives Frank Kratovil (D) and Senator Barbara Mikulski (D).

All total, earmarks totaling $13.8 million benefited organizations from which the Congressman’s campaigns received a total of $108,300 in committee and personal contributions.

At the very least, if you believe in honest government, then you want to put a stop to earmarking because it circumvents proper legislative and funds management processes. And if you believe in the essential need for campaign finance reform, you want to avoid the appearance, if not the fact, of impropriety.

Mr. Ruppersberger, if you or your campaign staff are reading this, feel free to comment. I mean that sincerely. Next Contestant will not edit or mock your comments. If the data I’m publishing and my analysis of them are in error, my apologies. If they are correct, as I believe they are, feel free to resign, to step down for having subverted our legislative system and for allowing corporate contributors to have access to you that ordinary citizens cannot afford to buy. However innocently, you have betrayed the trust of your constituency in Maryland’s Second Congressional District who will be better off casting their votes, without regard for party affiliation, for Nancy Jacobs, and that will be that.

-Next Contestant

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