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Did President Obama ‘Buy’ Votes for Unpopular Legislation?

The White House may have used its power to “buy” votes from Democrats in Congress via “administrative earmarks,” according to a new report from The Heritage Foundation.

“An examination of ‘administrative earmarks’ around the time of congressional votes on key pieces of President Obama’s agenda suggests the White House used its power to fund local projects as a means to ‘buy’ votes for major legislative efforts,” writes the Heritage Foundation’s Lachlan Markay.

How do “administrative earmarks” work? Simply put, it’s when the federal shifts funds from its discretionary budget to specific projects. However, this is less “transparent than legislative earmarking,” since, according to the Congressional Research Service, “[t]here is no source that defines and comprehensively identifies Administrative earmarks.”

Did President Obama Buy Votes for Unpopular Legislation?See, Nancy? One day, this will all be yours . . .

And, according to the Heritage Foundation, the Obama administration has been doubling down on the practice.

“[An] analysis of grants from agencies during the early years of the Obama administration shows that the districts of moderate Democrats, whose support was so crucial for Obama during the 111th Congress, received large sums right around the passage of three key pieces of legislation,” Lachlan Markay writes.

Care to guess which three pieces of legislation required a little “encouragement” via federal grants? If you guessed “Obamacare,” Dodd-Frank, and the cap-and-trade bill, you’re a winner.

“During the run-up to votes in the House of Representatives for each of those pieces of legislation, the rate of administrative earmarking spiked,” Heritage reports.

Below is a chart that clearly identifies the exponential rise in the number of grants requested by 12 federal agencies, as documented at Grants.gov.

Did President Obama Buy Votes for Unpopular Legislation?

Image Courtesy: Heritage Foundation

Notice the correlation?

“Even more troubling,” Markay writes, “during the same time periods, significant grant money went to the districts of numerous Democratic representatives who looked to face tough battles for re-election.”

Translation: the bills being pushed by the Obama administration were so unpopular that for a vulnerable Democrat to even consider voting “yes,“ federal grants had to be thrown in to ”sweeten the deal.”

Heritage reports:

Then-Rep. Chris Carney (D-PA), for instance, kept his support for Dodd-Frank quiet. His website never posted a press release announcing his “yes” vote on the bill. It did, however, tout two federal grants totaling $3.6 million for businesses in his district two days before the Dodd-Frank vote.

Then-Rep. Zach Space (D-OH) hailed from a district reliant on the coal industry, which would have been hit particularly hard by cap and trade. He voted for the measure, but neglected to publicize the vote on his website. He did, however, announce eight federal grants totaling roughly $1.8 million all made during the month before the House passed cap and trade.

At least 32 vulnerable House Democrats received significant federal grant money in the periods leading up to or directly after their votes on at least one of these three pieces of legislation (see charts below), suggesting those grants were used either to encourage or reward votes in favor of the administration’s position.

Now, it’s important to note that the practice of using “administrative earmarks” to “buy” votes is not new. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard Nixon were particularly fond of this tool. So, why is it newsworthy when the Obama administration does it?

It’s important for two reasons: first, because it’s necessary to remind people that the same administration that promised to end wars, lower the oceans, and end politicking, has decided to play the type of political games preferred by President Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon.

Secondly, it’s not so much the practice, but the extent to which the Obama administration has gleefully engaged in this questionable behavior.

“[The] CRS found in a report published in April 2010 — immediately after the time period at issue — that ‘[b]oth the number and value of earmarks requested solely by the President increased since FY2008,’” Markay reports.

“The number of earmarks had increased by 54 percent, CRS found, while the value of those requests had increased by a whopping 126 percent [emphasis added],” he adds.

Simply put, it appears the Obama administration has been using massive and unprecedented amounts of taxpayer dollars to solicit “yes” votes from wavering and vulnerable members of Congress.

Click here to see the full report.

(H/T: Charlie Spiering)

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