Hillary enjoys the hell out of it. Taibbi:
But of the three candidates, no one can touch Hillary Clinton for her expertise in dispensing federal pork. She is fast becoming a sort of Heavyweight Earmark Champion of the Beltway -- one think-tank analyst has even dubbed her the "Queen of Pork" -- who excels as a favor trader not only in sheer quantity but in brazenness as well. A recent examination of this year's earmark requests shows her solidifying her champion status more and more with each passing year, even under the ostensibly bright lights of a presidential campaign...Not that McCain is exactly innocent of big ol' earmarks. The man was part of the Keating 5, for heaven's sake.
Hillary's defense earmarks benefited some of the world's largest weapons producers, many of which have factories in New York. Among the most prominent include Northrop Grumman, which Hillary singled out for $6 million to develop a new radar system; Plug Power, for whom Hillary secured $3 million for a backup power system for Pentagon operations; and Telephonics, which Hillary gave $5 million for an intercom system for Black Hawk helicopters.
Her biggest coup of all was a multi-billion-dollar contract she helped to secure for Lockheed Martin to build the Marine One presidential helicopter -- a project derided by insiders as a typical example of Pentagon waste. "Oh, the presidential-helicopter thing is a classic boondoggle," says one congressional source. "They could have taken any old Black Hawk helicopter, put a nice interior in it and a decal on it, and it would've been OK. Instead, we got this thing that costs four times as much. It's nuts." Indeed, the Pentagon confirmed in March that the helicopter Hillary made sure would be built at Lockheed's plant in Owego, New York, would, in fact, cost $400 million per unit -- more than the modified Boeing 747 used as Air Force One. You heard right: $400 million for a single fucking helicopter.
With most of her earmarks, Clinton makes sure to get a return on her investment of taxpayer money. Lockheed donated $10,000 to Hillary's Senate campaign in 2006 and provided her with plenty of free rides on its planes. Plug Power officials have reportedly donated some $7,100 to her campaigns since 2003, and several Northrop executives gave the max to her presidential campaign. In that light it seems odd that Hillary was critical of a deal to award a refueling tanker project to Northrop -- except that she has also received maximum contributions from executives at the rival bidder, Boeing. Meanwhile, employees from Corning, for whom Hillary secured a $1 million earmark, donated $133,000 to her presidential campaign. The list goes on and on.
But Hillary's most brazen earmark this presidential-election season had nothing to do with defense. It had to do, oddly enough, with rock music. Back in June 2007, Hillary attempted to write a $1 million earmark for a museum commemorating the Woodstock festival in Bethel, New York. Not that anyone should have anything against Woodstock, but it seems weird to ask taxpayers to pay for it -- especially when the project is principally funded by one of America's richest men, a media mogul named Alan Gerry. Listed as number 297 on the annual Forbes list of wealthy Americans, Gerry reportedly has a net worth of $1.6 billion. Beyond the fact that he hardly needs the money, there is this to consider: On June 30th of last year, exactly three days after the earmark was officially inserted into an appropriations bill, Gerry and his wife both made maximum donations to Hillary's presidential campaign, totaling $9,200.The deal stank, even by congressional standards. When Republican opponents introduced an amendment to kill the earmark, the measure passed easily. "Most of our amendments fail by fifty or sixty votes," says John Hart, a spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn, an anti-earmark crusader who introduced the amendment to kill the handout. "But this one passed with no problem. It was so over-the-top.
To be fair, Obama's also caught up in it:
Hillary isn't alone among the candidates in selling us down the river for a few campaign contributions. Unlike Clinton, who has only disclosed the pork she actually succeeded in doling out, Barack Obama has supplied reporters with a list of every earmark he requested. But the list only served to highlight Obama's own pork, including $8 million for a "High Explosive Air Burst Technology Program" that would have been overseen by General Dynamics. Obama's Illinois finance chairman, James Crown, not only sits on the board of General Dynamics, he and his wife are both Obama bundlers who have raised more than $200,000 for Obama's campaign. Obama was also alone among the remaining candidates last year in using his leadership PAC to hand out money to politicians whose support he sought in his presidential run.Yep, he's got earmarks too. It's how you become and stay a Senator.
But this gets to the Clinton strategy of being part of the machine, co-opting it to their purposes, and "playing the game." Well, kids, this is the game. This is how it's played: big ol' defense earmarks that move billions of dollars of contracts around in order to get a couple hundred thousand dollars in bundled campaign contributions.
I'm not saying you shouldn't recognize it. But I am inclined to look unfavorably on someone who wraps themselves up in it.