January 16, 2006

Steve Laffey’s Prescience on Pork

Carroll Andrew Morse

With his trademark specificity, Republican Senatorial candidate Steve Laffey has proposed two reforms for getting pork spending under control in his “Road to Fiscal Sanity” plan…

Step 1: Separate vote on each earmark (aka pork).

Step 2: 2/3 of the Senate must agree to attach an earmark (aka. pork) to any bill.

An “earmark” is funding appropriated by Congress for a specific project in a single state or Congressional district. Under current rules, an earmark need only be approved by only one house of Congress, as long as both houses agree on the total amount of all earmarks.

At the start of his campaign, Mayor Laffey’s choice to make an issue of pork-spending was criticized as naïve. The conventional wisdom was that to be effective in the Senate, you had to curry favor with the Senate’s senior membership and support their quest for pork -- show that you were willing to help them, and eventually they’d help you.

Now, it turns out that Mayor Laffey was ahead of the curve. His earmark reforms are consistent with spending reform proposals currently being discussed by the Republican leadership in Congress. National Journal’s Hotline reports on the beginnings of a movement for reforming Senate appropriation procedures

Late last fall, [Republican Majority Leader] Sen. Bill Frist tapped Sen. Rick Santorum to conceive a package of lobbying reform legislation…

Ear marks added to spending bills would be subject to heightened scrutiny and lawmakers who add them would be forced to justify their existence to their colleagues.

The Laffey proposals certainly seem to fit under the rubric of “heightened scrutiny” for earmarks. In a separate article, Hotline reports on the beginnings of similar reforms in the House...
Those in favor of "lobbying reform" often really want procedural reform...

The two arenas certainly intersect; more scrutiny and disclosure by lobbyists would make it harder for lobbyists to convince members to add extraneous items to spending bills. Procedural reform -- say --requiring 72 hours to consider set-in-stone legislation before voting begins -- would reduce the number of last minute additions by lobbyists operating through members.

In Hotline’s parlance “lobbying reform” refers to strengthening rules governing lobbyist disclosure and lobbying activities, while “procedural reform” refers to reforming the rules that Senators and Congressmen have to follow when authorizing spending.

What has reduced Washington‘s appetite for easy pork, as most people know, is the scandal surrounding Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The Republican leadership is properly afraid that voters will throw them out of office in 2006 unless they show real interest in reforming the process by which Congress spends money, and focus more on facilitating the public good, and less on satisfying the wants of lobbyists and the political needs of members of Congress.

But like all scandals, the Abramoff scandal will eventually fade, and the inertia of business-as-usual will reassert itself. The momentum for reform will only be sustained if the people are represented by Senators and Representatives who believe in spending reform not because it’s a headline issue, but because it’s the right thing to do. By speaking out on the issue of pork spending before it was popular, Steve Laffey has established his credentials in this important area.

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Once again, Mayor Laffey shows true leadership. As Senator Chafee hops around the state bragging about $400,00 for animal shelters in Westerly and millions to tear down that bridge, that could have been dealt with for much less $$ years ago, Laffey has presented a case that pork is BAD people. It is a raw deal for all Rhode Islanders and Americans.

Once again, this highlights which candidate is with the taxpayers (Laffey) and which one is against the taxpayers (Chafee) by selling our Country's financial future down the river.


Posted by: Bosco "BA" Baracus at January 16, 2006 11:27 AM

I always loved pork...like bacon, yummy. But soon I realized, it was bad for my health..after I had my last heart attack. The same thing is happening now with the voters. They use to think pork was a good thing, but it's killing our country's financial health. These stupid bridges in Alaska is just the worst kind of pork..lots of bad cholestrol. Laffey keeps talking about major problems and coming up with solutions. He reminds me of that smart doctor I visited after my last heart attack, who got me to give up on pork. What does Chafee talk about- lets see, pork. He is PORK PUSHER, like that sausage guy who still comes around my junkyard trying to get me to buy his stuff. In the end, people chose substance and good health over mush and stuff that will kill you. Please pass me the biscuits, Pappy, but no more pork.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at January 16, 2006 2:14 PM

First, thank you young man for bringing this to our attention. I went and reviewed Mr. Laffey's website and both plans.

I have been waiting 40 years for someone like Mr. Laffey to show up. Specific and to the point he takes on BIG issues and gives SOLUTIONS to the problems of our day.

Not only that but then he takes them on and doesn't stop until he gets what he wants. All along the way he maintains his composure and sense of humor and never lets anyone get him off course.

His next twelve years in the U. S. Senate will change the direction of this country for the better. I only hope I can stay alive to watch it play out.

Posted by: Ivan the Elder at January 16, 2006 3:32 PM

Ivan, Sir, not to worry, Laffey in the Senate means less pork, less fat in the budget and lower taxes for hard working Americans like you and me...and we all know lower taxes mean less stress, happier days and longer lives for us all.

Long Live Ivan! Long live Laffey!

Posted by: Stretch Cunningham at January 16, 2006 5:58 PM

Copy Cat Watch...

It will be interesting to watch all the other major candidates as they eventually begin to start doing what Laffey has been doing for months and actually in some cases for years.

The thing to remember is Laffey actually lives these issues. He is not a political opportunist in the typical sense of the word. Most pols ride the trend wave. They poll to find out what the people want to hear and then they proclaim it.

Laffey looks at the real problems (city going bankrupt), creates a plan to solve them (too much to mention), and then he executes his plan ($20 million surplus, 20% co-pay, bond rating to investment grade, etc.) . This is the way it should be done.

When more and more average Rhode Islanders begin to come up to speed with what is happening in this race it will all bec ome crystal clear. They will make the choice for the person they see and feel is the one who will do the most for them in their everyday world. Laffey lives in the everyday world. He doesn't need a poll to illuminate what the problems are.

As of this moment I do not know of a single candidate, including Chafee, who has even the semblance of a real plan to do anything for the taxpayers who would put them in office.

There are five candidates in the race. Only one is running. Give the baton to Laffey.


Posted by: Sol Venturi at January 16, 2006 6:01 PM


Good points all around, esp. about Laffey being the only one actually out there solving real problems for regular folks. He has a work ethic to rival anyone. For some reason, I can't exactly see Sheldon Whitehouse knocking on doors at 8AM on a Saturday, or conversing with normal folks at a donut shop, walking in his wingtips. He so reminds me of Al Gore (that's definitely not a compliment). Matt Brown will have to let go of his new prop (child) long enough to do it, unless he wheels it around in a carriage, too. Chafee can't campaign from a yacht and doesn't exactly have that "everyman" touch. Of the candidates running, Mayor Laffey is the only one that has actually had a productive career in the private sector (no, I don't consider horse shoeing to be a career). He also knows what it's like to go without, and to become a better person in spite of it. I don't know if Mayor Laffey will raise more money than all the other candidates, but one thing is for sure, he will out work them.

Posted by: Will at January 17, 2006 1:19 AM

Even if you are of the opinion that pork is somehow good for this country, Senator Chafee does a horrendous job in securing these earmarks for Rhode Island. In the '05 transportation bill, Rhode Island recieved only 150 million out of a possible 27 billion!

Posted by: Leon Berg at January 17, 2006 9:43 AM

Ever since the Starbucks across the street from the loading dock got wi-fi I been sneaking in my laptop.

Will, those 99 other Senators better start working out because when Laffey gets down there to Washington they won't be able to keep up with him. My foreman, Archie said Chafee hardly gets anything done in the Senate. When he does work he's working on some project to do with the birds or bears or helping the commies or something like that. Archie always says to me, "workin' hard or hardly workin'" I can just picture some other Senator saying that to Chafee. They won't be able to say that to Laffey when he gets in. They'll be asking him to slow down like my shop steward always says to me.

Gotta go, here comes Archie

Posted by: Stretch Cunningham at January 17, 2006 12:47 PM

Well, I must correct you. It was $250 for the Animal Shelter in Westerly, which will serve much of South County. He also got Westerly $825,000 toward our Water Tower, saving our town from future problems. So thank God Chafee helps out the cities and Towns. And he does nt brag. I can do that for him. He deserves the credit.

Seems like a lot of people feel that way, judging by his fundraising efforts.....I include the following.......

Warwick, RI – The Chafee Campaign announced that it has closed the year with its strongest fundraising quarter yet, raising $715,000 from October through December 31. Overall the campaign has raised almost $2.5 million and ended 2005 with more than $1.7 million cash on hand. The money raised has come from a broad grassroots network of support throughout Rhode Island and the nation, with over 3,000 people contributing to Senator Chafee’s re-election effort.

Posted by: caswell cooke, Jr at January 17, 2006 8:12 PM

Sorry....$250,000 for the record

Posted by: caswell cooke, Jr at January 17, 2006 8:13 PM

Each dollar of pork costs taxpayers anywhere from $1.35-$4.00, depending on the study. There are the huge administrative costs involved, the costs of state/local issues handled nationally by politicians who are not in touch with the decentralized situations, and the huge opportunity cost of what more productive uses there could be for $27 billion dollars.

Take any $20 million of the mostly-useless pork items on Chafee's website ($3m for lobster research!)and ask a typical RI taxpayer if he would pay $20 in higher taxes for them. My guess is he would not. What about those 50 people in Alaska - would they pay $225 million themselves for that bridge to Ketchikan.

Pork (and corporate welfare) are classic big government mechanisms to spread costs to everyone and concentrate benefits. It is nothing more than buying off interest groups and classes of voters. The move towards socialism is not an overnight event...it is more of a slow edging process over decades. Without people like Laffey, we will eventually get there. History tells us that. Vote for Laffey and help move this country back toward what the founders intended in the first place.

Posted by: bountyhunter at January 17, 2006 8:32 PM


I can't wait to add up all those Chafee PAC contributions at the end of the month.


Posted by: Bosco "BA" Baracus at January 18, 2006 9:30 AM