The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Coconut Road Outrage

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


An update on the ongoing drama associated with what CAGW has dubbed “the immaculate earmark.”

It began when Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) came under withering criticism from CAGW and many others for allegedly transforming a $10 million earmark contained in the 2005 highway bill for a road-widening project on I-75 near Ft. Myers, Florida into a more targeted project to construct an interchange that would have benefited a Florida developer.  It turned out that the developer had sponsored an event near the proposed interchange that helped raise $40,000 for the congressman.  Fast forward to April 2008, as Congress is poised to pass H.R. 1195, a “technical corrections” bill to the 2005 highway bill.  It appears that Rep. Young may be in for more than just a public slap on the wrist. 

On April 17, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) offered an amendment to empanel a bicameral investigative committee to look into who made the alteration to that earmark between the time it passed both chambers and before it was signed by the president.  Senate leaders changed the rules for his amendment to require a 60-vote supermajority for passage, and it was defeated 49-43.  The Senate then passed, by a vote of 64-28, an amendment sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) which instructs the Justice Department to conduct the investigation. 

However, it could be unconstitutional for the Congress to invite an executive branch department to investigate it, especially when Congress has its own methods and resources to get to the bottom of the mystery.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) seemed to agree when she first indicated that she intended to have the House ethics panel do the digging.  But Speaker Pelosi then agreed to accept the Senate language.  House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) quipped that “The attorney general does not work for Congress,” suggesting instead that the Government Accountability Office, which does, would be the appropriate venue for the investigation. 

This is starting to sound like an old comedy routine:  Sen. Bud Abbott: “Who’s on first for this investigation?”  Rep. Lou Costello: “What’s on second?”  Together: “Third investigation – I don’t know.”

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