FY ’02: Earmarks Folly: The Sequel

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In July, when Congress passed a supplemental appropriation for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, its advertised purpose was to “further recovery from and respond to terrorist attacks on the United States.” Tucked into the bill (H.R. 4775) were a few items illustrating just how much the practice of earmarking funds for children and youth groups has come to be as juvenile as pin the tail on the donkey.

One provision orders a sex change in Seattle. A $250,000 earmark to the local YMCA was switched to the YWCA. Why? “It was just a typo-error,” quips Seattle YWCA Executive Director Rita Ryder. The funds to the “Y” will be used to operate what Congress calls “an at-risk youth center.” Actually, Ryder says, there will be two: one at the Central YWCA; the other at the High Point YWCA.

Wrong agency, wrong number of programs, but as least the earmark’s champion, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), got the state right.

There was no brotherly love evident when Congress earmarked “$150,000 for the American Theater Arts for Youth Inc., Philadelphia, Pa.” Oops, wrong Philadelphia. The no-compete award was intended for Philadelphia, Miss., and the rest of the state. The Philly program does get a $25,000 consolation prize.

Frenzied lobbying for next year’s earmarks will crescendo in September, so the earmark winners back home will be filled with gratitude before they vote in November for their bring-home-the-bacon incumbent, who probably also voted for President George Bush’s $1.35 trillion earmark tax cut for America’s wealthy.