Bay Area to receive earmarks

February 26, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
In Washington, Congress has passed a $410 billion spending bill, loaded with pork, pet spending projects, and lawmakers did it right after President Obama warned them that sacrifices need to be made.

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ABC7's Mark Matthews spoke with a Bay Area Congresswoman who voted against this bill. Even since Wednesday's vote, he had been getting e-mails from our local congressmen and women bragging about the millions of dollars they've been able to secure for projects in their districts. Only one, San Mateo Representative Jackie Speier (D) said no to earmark-laden spending.

Congresswoman Speier says her vote was a protest.

"I voted no because the earmarks that continue to plague so many of these spending bills just are out of control," said Speier.

Speier says of the $410 billion in the spending bill as much as $8 billion was earmarked by lawmakers for the projects in their home districts.

"And the time has come for us to change the way we do business in Washington. We give it a lot of lip service, the president said no more earmarks, his opponent John McCain said no more earmarks, and yet they're still sneaking them in the bills," said Speier.

In the Bay Area $1.4 million to dredge the San Rafael Canal, $1.2 million to rehab a historic hospital on Angel Island, and $200,000 for Center Point - a San Rafael-based organization that helps ex-cons transition back into society.

Those some of the $30 million in earmarks of Representative Lynn Woolsey (D) of Santa Rosa, but she's not sneaking them in bills, she's posted them on her website and bragging about them in a phone interview Thursday afternoon with Matthews.

"We don't get everything we ask for but we want to make sure that if there are earmarks, 'pork' so to speak, that indeed my taxpayers in my district are going to get some of them," said Woolsey.

Woolsey was in the House chamber Tuesday night when President Obama called on lawmakers to cut back.

"Everyone in this chamber, Democrats and Republicans, will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars. And that includes me," said President Obama.

Afterwards she praised him

"He was so right on," said Woolsey.

"And he also understands what a lot of us believe and have been working for a long time and that is we've got to return to fiscal responsibility," said Napa Congressman Mike Thompson (D).

But Congressman Thompson also put in for one of the biggest earmarks $24.5 million to combat the spread of Pierce's Disease, a potentially catastrophic threat to grape vines.

Last year the wine, beer, and liquor industry was by far the biggest contributed to Thompson's reelection with $244,780. ABC7 wanted to ask him about that on Thursday, but he declined.

Woolsey's defended her $200,000 earmark for Center Point as a good investment even though Center Point's employees gave her campaign $8,900 this past year, and a total of $40,000 over the past 12 years.

Matthews asked Woolsey should contributions be disclosed in the earmark requests.

"Could be that would be fine. Yes, that wouldn't be a bad idea at all," said Woolsey.

But Wednesday Woolsey, Speier and nearly every other congressional Democrat voted against a Republican-sponsored proposal to link campaign contributions to earmarks. Fremont Congressman Pete Stark (D) didn't vote. San Jose's Zoe Lofgren voted present.

ABC7 called every member of congress in the Bay Area to ask for their list of earmarks. About half have supplied them.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee:
lee.house.gov

Congressman Mike Honda:
honda.house.gov

Congressman McNerney:
mcnerney.house.gov
Link to FY2009 appropriations requests (also included in press release):
http://mcnerney.house.gov/FY2009_Earmark_Requests.pdf

Congressman George Miller:
georgemiller.house.gov

Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo:
eshoo.house.gov

Congressman Mike Thompson
mikethompson.house.gov

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