Bush earmarks differ in kind from congressional earmarks

Your article “Bush called out for his earmarks” (June 28) includes commentary suggesting that the White House position on earmark reform is inconsistent because the administration itself earmarks federal dollars. It’s important to understand the difference between agency decisions on how to allocate federal funds and congressional earmarks.

Congressional earmarks typically direct funding to specific recipients or locations without being subject to a merit-based competitive process based on national priorities. In other words, congressional earmarks are often determined more by geography, party affiliation or even a lawmaker’s seniority. Yes, federal agencies do direct billions of dollars of spending. But this is done pursuant to federal statutes, and funding decisions are made through a merit-based competitive and
transparent process — that is subject to oversight by Congress.

Congressional earmarks have more than tripled in the last decade — resulting in billions of dollars in spending, much of which is not targeted to our top national priorities. The president has proposed cutting the number and amount of earmarks in half, as well as a fully transparent process. And the administration has sought to bring the same transparency to the federal budget process.

The administration’s 2008 budget request — nearly 2,000 pages of detail — and comprehensive agency justifications for this spending are now publicly available on the Internet for the first time ever at omb.gov. The administration has also launched www.earmarks.omb.gov to provide new transparency of earmarks and to establish a clear benchmark from which to measure the president’s goal of cutting earmarks in half.

The practice of earmarking is coming under increased scrutiny by the administration — and many in Congress — because of individual earmarks that are inappropriate and because of the dramatic increase in earmarks in the past decade.
Disagreements over the administration’s merit-based criteria or other aspects of the competitive process to direct federal funding are an appropriate and important debate. But to allege, “They do it too” on earmarks is simply inaccurate and a distraction from the real problem that needs to be addressed.

~From Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanLongtime tax aide leaving Senate Finance Committee Ex-McConnell policy aide joining lobby firm WATCH: Sen. Flake: “More doubtful” North Korean summit will happen  MORE, director, White House Office of Management and Budget, Washington

Union statistics are not ‘cooked’

Your July 19 article “Sec. Chao criticizes House for cutting union oversight funds” reported the current debate over funding cuts for the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS), the Department of Labor agency responsible for protecting rank-and-file union members. This relatively small office has investigated crimes against unions resulting in 775 convictions since 2001, but the article casts doubt on the validity of this number. Ms. Deborah Greenfield of the AFL-CIO reportedly believes that “DoL counts different actions in a single case as separate counts in order to make union corruption appear more rampant than it actually is” and is quoted as saying “the statistics are cooked.”

Ms. Greenfield’s assertion is simply false. OLMS counts each individual’s conviction in federal or state court once. This number does not include indictments or other “actions,” nor does it include multiple charges for which one has been indicted or convicted. In fact, since 2001, OLMS investigations have yielded 806 indictments, 1,154 charges for which individuals were indicted, and 942 charges for which individuals were convicted, an unfortunate testament to the fact OLMS performs a vital mission in protecting union members from those who commit crimes against them.

~From Don Todd, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Labor-Management Programs, Department of Labor, Washington