GOP looks to shut down commemorative coin 'earmark'

Republicans in the Senate and House have proposed legislation that would prevent Congress from authorizing new commemorative coins that raise millions of dollars for the groups they are commemorating, a practice that a GOP senator was noted in recent press reports for using excessively.

The Commemorative Coins Reform Act was introduced by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashDozens of GOP lawmakers staying away from Trump's convention House uprising thwarts change to Patriot Act GOP angst grows over Trump MORE (R-Mich.), partly in reaction to news that Sen. Mark KirkMark KirkDuckworth wears ‘You can pee next to me’ shirt Tim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense NBA pulls All-Star Game from NC over bathroom law MORE (R-Ill.) successfully pushed through a few commemorative-coin bills that benefited a lobbying firm connected to his former girlfriend.

Under the current practice, commemorative coins can be authorized by Congress in legislation that usually allows a surcharge to be assessed on each coin. Money raised through that surcharge benefits the group that is being commemorated by the coin.

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In June, The Wall Street Journal reported that Kirk had authored several of these bills, many of which were for clients of Arcadian Partners, a lobbying group. The Journal story reported that Arcadian was paid $54,000 by the March of Dimes to lobby for a commemorative coin, and also that Kirk's former girlfriend had been employed at Arcadian.

Press reports also noted that Kirk successfully passed other coin bills that raised several million dollars for the groups being honored.

DeMint and Amash referred to that story, and said it shows that the current way of approving commemorative coins can make it too much like a congressional earmark that members can put forward to benefit certain groups.

"Congress has done great work on eliminating earmarks, but commemorative coins have become a way for politicians to continue steering federal benefits to favored projects," DeMint said.

"Congress found yet another way to circumvent the earmark ban with commemorative coins," Amash said. "Organizations shouldn't receive special treatment because of their D.C. connections. It's far beyond the proper role of the federal government to act as the sales agent for private groups."

The bill from DeMint and Amash would use the surcharge to pay for the coin program, and use any extra money raised to pay down the deficit. DeMint said commemorative coins should not be a "money-maker" for private entities.

The Senate bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Tom CoburnTom CoburnRyan calls out GOP in anti-poverty fight The Trail 2016: Words matter Ex-Sen. Coburn: I won’t challenge Trump, I’ll vote for him MORE (R-Okla.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamTrump: 'I hope' Russia is able to get Clinton's emails Syria activists cheer Kaine pick Vulnerable GOP senators praise Kaine MORE (R-S.C.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonSanders could be secret weapon for Dems The Trail 2016: The newrevolution begins Greens launch M ad buy in Wis. Senate race MORE (R-Wis.), Mike LeeMike LeeObama signs opioid bill Thiel said to explain support for Trump in convention speech Convention erupts at Cruz snub MORE (R-Utah), John McCainJohn McCainDems fear Trump arguments on terrorism FULL SPEECH: Tim Kaine accepts Democratic VP nomination Retired admiral: It would be a disaster if Trump were the face of the US MORE (R-Ariz.) and Jim RischJim RischRepublicans root for Pence as VP Senate votes for energy bill negotiations with House GOP senators: Revoke security clearances for Clinton and her staffers MORE (R-Idaho). The House bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.).

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