ENDING EARMARKS BUS TOUR PROTESTS FUNDING ON DALI MUSEUM-Andrew Stelzer

06/12/06

For the past 3 months, a bus emblazoned with “ending earmarks� has traveled through dozens of states, in an effort to call attention to the practice known as ‘earmarking’, in which a member of congress adds funding for a particular, usually local project, to a totally unrelated bill. Earmarking often takes place very late in the legislative process, and without much, if any debate. Today, the bustour came to St Petersburg, where the target was the Salvatore Dali museum. WMNFs Andrew Stelzer reports

Ed Frank is the director of communications with the Americans for prosperity foundation. His group organized the “ending earmarks bustour�, to try and build grassroots support to pressure politicians to stop abusing the earmark process, which he says is out of control.

ACT “Often the house will pass one, senate will pass another and it will go to conference committee..even if there was n funding..�

300 thousand dollars was appropriated to the Dali in the 2005 budget, and 900 thousand in the 2006 budget. Museum director Hank Hines says the money was needed, and is being well spent.

ACT-Hine “We need to have a visitor reception area, classrooms where these things take place, and we need it in a physical environment..�

But Frank says it’s not the quality of the project, but the transparency behind how it was funded that his group has a problem with.

ACT “The Salvatore Dali museum has gotten millions…it’s a very fine museum, but with a 4 billion dollar tax fund lets have the debate..�

Franks group was scheduled to hold a press conference outside the Dali Museum, but were unable to because of the inclement weather. Management at the Dali was expecting the group, and delivered to them several letters explaining why the museum is a worthwhile use of taxpayer’s money. One of those letters was from two local retirees, saying that they ‘couldn’t think of a better way for their tax dollars to be spent.�

ACT-Hine ’we have a lot of seniors, who have a life of taxation, and they are glad that their money is going for something positive..�

Congressman Bill Young, who was responsible for earmarks to the Dali museum, was forced by term limits to step down as chairman of the house appropriations committee at the end of 2004. Young is still the vice chair of the committee, and over the 6 years he served as chairman, he became known for getting funding for local projects ranging from beach renourishment and children’s programs, to bike trails, tennis programs and an airport control tower. At a ribbon cutting ceremony Last October for a reservoir named in his honor and funded in large part due to his efforts, Young defended his aggressive pursuit of federal funds, and the earmark process.

ACT-young “There have been pundits about how florid got this and that..but we didn’t get our fair share, but this is catch up time and were gong to catch up..�

Over the weekend, Democratic Virginia congressman Jim Moran told a rally of 450 people that if Democrats regain control of the house in November, and he became chairman of a house appropriations subcommittee, , quote, I'm going to earmark the shit out of it,� Frank says earmarks abused equally by members of both parties, and says over the past few years, those pushing earmarks have become more brazen.

ACT “They’ve been around for while but the abuse just got bad. Reagan vetoed, bush allowed 63,000 in less than 20 years..its out of control. 15,000 spending earmarks..�

The ending earmarks bus tour is in its 3rd leg. Over the next few days, they will be visiting 6 states, and holding events outside of locations, which benefited from recent earmark funding.

ACT “Tomorrow we will be in auburn Alabama, Macon Georgia..100k earmark to renovate an historic Coca-Cola building..100,000k to earmark something else. Katrina but include din emergency spending bill..cabinets and counters in drivers license..changed to building a facility at Wesleyan college in Macon. also n and s Carolina to international storytelling museum..�

But Hines says that the Dali museum is far from a local pet project, as more than half of the annual quarter of a million visitors are from out of town.

ACT-Hines “Our political system is imperfect, but our society doesn’t fund arts and education and they suggest this is less than a fair process..�

Frank says there is Legislation pending which would require member of congress to attach their names to earmark legislation—as of now, unless they take credit, its impossible to tell who actually proposed and inserted the language in the bill.

ACT “A lot of these things go to friends on contributors..� ACT “Sometimes members of congress put out a press release, but there is no mention of a sponsor, so when we find a congressman has secretly secured..at the very least..we need reform legislation to make them put their name on earmarks.

To Learn more about the ending earmarks bus tour. Log onto www.endingearmarksexpress.com

For WMNF news, I’m Andrew Stelzer

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