First Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) surrenders his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee amid an ethics investigation. Now Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) proposes an idea that she hopes will help her make good on her promise to help lead "the most ethical Congress in history"—a party-wide ban on earmarks. Will it happen? Don't bet on it. Reason.tv's "Pork Party House" helps explain why neither party can resist the pull of pork.
If you're a politician, lobbyist, or insider and you're in the mood to party, check out a Washington D.C. mansion called the Sewall-Belmont House. Party with senators and celebrities at thousand-dollar-a-plate fundraisers! You might even get to ride a mechanical bull! The Sewall-Belmont House hosts so many A-list events, you might be surprised to find out that your tax dollars help fund this hotspot for Washington insiders. "Over the last 10 years, the Sewall-Belmont House has gotten over $3.4 million in earmarks," says Leslie Paige of Citizens Against Government Waste.
Reporters often highlight the most ridiculous examples, but politicians have learned how to make their pork projects sound uncontroversial, even appealing. Just say your project will help children, senior citizens, or—if you really want to slip under the radar—direct taxpayer dough to a museum.
"Museums are one of the biggies because they sound so good," says Paige. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) used that angle to direct a million-dollar earmark to the Sewall-Belmont House (after the Senator received an award from the Sewall-Belmont House). Turns out Landrieu was just getting warmed up, because her recent $300 million "Louisiana Purchase" shot her into the ranks of pork legends.
It wasn't supposed to be like this, laments Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), one of Congress's few legitimate pork busters. Flake tells Reason.tv that despite pork-laden scandals that stuck some members behind bars—remember Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.)?—and promises from Barack Obama to reform earmarks, spending on pork continues to swell in the giant pork party house called the U.S. Congress.
"Pork Party House" is written and produced by Ted Balaker. Producer: Hawk Jensen; Host: Nick Gillespie; Field Producer: Dan Hayes; Associate Producer: Paul Detrick; Additional Camera: Meredith Bragg; Production Assistant: Josh Swain; Music: "Get What You Want?" by Beight (Magnatune Records).
Approximately six-and-a-half minutes. Scroll down for embed code and downloadable versions.
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