Congressman Wu Earmark Flap Tip of Troubling Iceberg

Wu Earmark Flap Tip of Troubling Iceberg
By Jeff Kropf

The Seattle Times and the Portland Oregonian recently reported that U.S. Rep David Wu (D-OR) had arranged $3 million in taxpayer funds to purchase t-shirts from a Beaverton company for the Marine Corps. The shirts turned out to be prone to melting in high heat situations, which could have been dangerous or fatal to Marines who wore them. The shirts defect was known before Wu arranged the purchase.

To secure the no-bid contract for his constituent, Wu used a method known in Congress as an “earmark.” Essentially the term designates any time a Member of Congress specifies an expenditure — or sometimes a tax break — for an individual or company or group of individuals or companies. Prior to August of 2007, Congressmen could anonymously insert this kind of goody in appropriation, tax or authorization bills. Other Congressmen — who had their own earmarks to protect — were unlikely to question any Member’s wishes.

This year, Congress took action to stop these anonymous earmarks, but only applied the new rules requiring disclosure to the twelve appropriations bills. The thousands of other laws Congress considers each Session — including tax bills where favors are handed out like candy at Halloween — were somehow left out.

The kicker on the Wu story was that his campaign committee had received at least $7,500 in contributions from executives of the t-shirt company. Wu says there was no quid pro quo — the $3 million in exchange for the $7,500 — and it’s impossible to know for sure in this kind of chicken and egg situation.

What is clear is that Wu is not alone in securing pork-barrel projects using earmarks. Hundreds of millions of dollars — one Democrat Congressional office recently estimated the number was as high as billions — are handed out every year through the use of earmarks, most of it anonymously and without debate by the Congress.

This is not to argue that every earmark project is defective like Wu’s t-shirts or wasteful like the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” project in Alaska that was recently killed. However, the vast majority of earmark projects never receive scrutiny of any kind. It was only through the work of the media that Wu’s defective t-shirts came to light.

What is worse, of course, is the appearance of impropriety caused by Wu’s acceptance of campaign contributions from people for whom he’s sponsored earmarks. To make amends, the best thing for Wu to do would be to either return all contributions from earmark recipients or donate them to charity, and pledge to never accept contributions in the future from any person or company for whom he’s ever sponsored an earmark. If all members of Oregon’s Congressional delegation would take such a pledge, they would make a good beginning in repairing the public’s trust in government.

Kropf is the State Director of Americans for Prosperity — Oregon, a member of the nation’s premier grassroots organization committed to advancing every individual’s right to economic freedom and opportunity. He is a former State Representative from Scio.

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Posted by at 05:59 | Posted in Measure 37 | 9 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Homer

    Wu can get away with this because everytime he does something wrong, his own voters think he is a congressmen for some other darn district.

  • Britt Storkson

    So what else is new? Why does this even make the news? That’s how government operates nowadays – driven by what amounts to bribery, for all practical purposes. It’s just like a slot machine only you are guaranteed to win. You pay your money to the politician and out pops the pork…usually far more than you put in.
    How do we put a stop to this? To quote the economist Jim Glassman: “The only way to get the money out of politics is to get the money out of government”.

  • CRAWDUDE

    Wu should be Wumoved from office this election. I can’t believe the people in his district would possibly re-elect such an obviously corrupt person again and again.

    Between this and his sexual harrassment issue in college they should have a snap shot of his charater by now………..one would hope.

    • Anonymous

      They obviously like corruption.

  • Jerry

    This moron can’t even buy a quality t-shirt – and we are supposed to trust him to govern????????????

  • Phoebe

    We need to have a congressional committee on t-shirt purchasing.

  • MIke M

    I wasn’t born yesterday. Why else would Wu arrange this pork for this company? AND if you think giving back the PUBLIC $7500 makes this square and on the up and up… well I guess I never knew anyone was that naive. Ever hear of “under the table?” Ever hear of a congressman coming out of office poorer than when he went in?

  • Bo

    T-shirt to nowhere?

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