Opinion

Earmarks are suspicious

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., has long been a champion of earmarks as a way to meet the needs of constituents in his district. But it is disturbing to learn that several of those who benefited were his friends and relatives.

The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, which pored through a decade's worth of records of Clyburn's congressional earmarks, found that he set aside at least $6.2 million of taxpayer dollars for projects that could directly benefit his friends and family. That includes $784,000 for the planning and design of the International African American Museum in Charleston, a project on which his nephew is one of the lead architects.

In 2005, Clyburn earmarked $145,500 for a community center to be designed by the same nephew. He also set aside $229,000 in this year's budget to the Charles R. Drew Wellness Center in Columbia, a facility he helped construct with a 2003 earmark of $990,000 and where his daughter, Angela, is the marketing director.

Clyburn also got $282,000 appropriated for The South Sumter Resource Center in Sumter, where his sister-in-law is housing coordinator for the center's community development division. He has secured $670,000 for the resource center in past budgets.

Clyburn has made no bones about his fondness for ladling out the pork. He, in fact, argues convincingly that congressmen are better suited to gauge the needs of their districts and their constituents than the lobbyists who sway most major spending decisions in Congress.

But Clyburn's own record undermines that argument. As House majority whip, he was the sole sponsor for 32 earmarks totaling $38.8 million in the current federal budget. In contrast, all of South Carolina's other lawmakers combined sponsored only $45.5 million in earmarks in the same budget.

In the total federal budget, earmarks amount to a pittance. But they are among the most blatant forms of favoritism practiced in Congress -- especially when the recipients are friends and family.

Clyburn will have a tough time justifying this pork.

IN SUMMARY

Rep. Jim Clyburn appears to have channeled federal pork to his friends and family.

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