Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Call an Earmark an Earmark

Part of the problem with the fight against earmarks is that, when they are presented to what most people deem a worthy program, the press refers to them as grants.

Such is the case with the The Express-Times story talking about our Representative Scott Garrett's earmark for a rural police training program to be conducted at Centenary College in Hackettstown:

A $894,348 federal law enforcement grant is bringing rural police training back to the local level. U.S. Rep Scott Garrett announced the award of the three-year U.S. Department of Justice grant Monday at Centenary College, which will develop the program.
For those that aren't familiar with Centenary, it is a great school. Unfortunately, the nature of the earmark process does absolutely nothing to validate that reputation.

In addition, the fact much of our rural District falls within the Highlands region providing the vast majority of NJ's drinking water makes us particularly susceptible as a soft target. So, it sounds like a valid program, and on face value this seems to be a noble deed.

That said, the press calling this a grant implies Centenary won the funds in a competition against their peers. In fact, Garrett sent a letter to the Appropriations Committee requesting $750,000; Appropriations approved $940,000; and, on a side note, somehow $46,000 vanished in Washington.

The problem with the press calling earmarks grants is that then there is no accountability for Garrett in the public's mind? What was his vetting process? Could either Warren or Sussex County Community Colleges have provided the same classes at a better cost? Would another college, in say Pennsylvania or New York, done even better?

We'll never know. The only thing we know is that Garrett is very comfortable railing against earmarks in Washington; probably because he knows most folks don't realize that's exactly what he's doing with these "grants".

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