Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis: Six Questions for Alaska Congressional Candidates--#4 Earmarks

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Six Questions for Alaska Congressional Candidates--#4 Earmarks

I submitted six questions to all of the Progressive candidates for the Alaska At-Large Congressional seat (running against Don Young) as well as the U.S. Senate seat (running against Ted Stevens). The ones who responded were Ethan Berkowitz, Diane Benson and Mark Begich. Here is the answer to question number four from AK-AL candidates Diane Benson and Ethan Berkowitz, running in the primary on August 26th. I'll post the last two before I leave for the Democratic Convention tomorrow night.

4) Earmarks: While the use of earmarks by Senator Stevens and Congressman Young has given Alaska a black eye throughout the rest of the country, that practice has also made them popular with many Alaskan businesses as well as individuals. Do you think it’s possible to juggle Alaska’s dependence on earmarked government projects without making some of those same mistakes and/or further damaging Alaska’s reputation? If so, how will you accomplish that?


Earmarks are not the problem, the abuse of earmarks are the problem. Like the rest of America, Alaskan’s are not opposed to earmarks. Alaskan’s are opposed to earmarks spent on lobbyists and special interests rather than the people of Alaska.

When I’m elected to Congress I will propose two common sense solutions to greatly increase transparency. The first step involves transparency. If legislators believe the earmarks they put in bills are being ethically used then they should have no problem with the public knowing how much money they’re spending and where the money is going. It’s taxpayer money and taxpayers have a right to know. Second, rather than continuing the chaotic spending of billions of dollars in earmarks, I propose that Congress set aside a certain amount of the budget for direct congressional spending. By limiting earmark spending to a predetermined amount, and then dividing that amount per Senator or Congressperson, the American people would no longer need to worry about out of control pork barrel spending increasing the budget.

By proposing these two solutions, Alaskans can go from being regarded as the state known for “government waste” to the state that brought much needed reform to out of control government spending.


Alaska’s next member of congress has the challenge of restoring trust and transparency, of making sure that the public interest, not special interest is served. Against that backdrop, earmarks can serve a useful purpose. Take the Denali Commission, for example.

The federal bureaucracy sometimes fails to move quickly enough, or be flexible enough to respond to uniquely Alaskan conditions. Earmarks -- discretionary spending -- can correct those sort of problems. We just need to know who asked for them, that there is a clear process to examine them, and that they are not used to reward contributors and supporters.

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