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My apologies in advance, but this is a "Tale of Two Campbells" - so look for me to use first and last names when referencing the two principles in this story. It's like opening a can of Campbell's soup -- one with a lot of pork inside...
When I was reading the exclusive column featured on this website, penned by former Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Tom Campbell, in which he pledges to carry no earmarks were he elected to the Senate, and in which he challenged one of his primary opponents, Carly Fiorina, to join him in making this pledge - something came to my mind: a conversation that I had with Congressman John Campbell (who is also a regular contributor to the FlashReport Blog) a few years ago.
Most readers probably know that John Campbell has been amongst the few patriots (along with Reps. Jeb Hensarling and Jeff Flake) who were opposing egregious earmarks when it wasn't "in style" (now the entire House Republican Conference has signed on with an earmark prohibition policy). In my recollection of my chat back then with John Campbell, he was very unhappy with former Congressman Tom Campbell because of his successful efforts to kill an amendment he had proposed which would have cut seven egregious earmarks.
So I reached out to John Campbell to get a reminder of the story, and he asked me to meet him at a local Starbucks (conveniently my office is located in the heart of his Congressional District).
The Congressman agreed to an on-camera interview, so below is about a three minute Q&A between he and I where he describes what occurred. While I ask this question right away in the interview, it is worth emphasizing that John Campbell has not endorsed any candidate in the contested Republican primary for the U.S. Senate.
I should preface your watching of the video by saying that this is all about a 2007 amendment proposed by John Campbell to the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2007 to strip funding for seven egregious items of pork:
Study the social relationships and reproductive strategies of Phayre's leaf monkeys
Study of the sexual politics of waste in Dakar, Senegal
Study of the cognitive model of superstitious belief
Research the archives of Andean knotted-string records
Study the accuracy in the cross-cultural understanding of other's emotions
Research of bison hunting on the late prehistoric great plains
Study of team vs. individual play
Here is the interview...
I found this interview to be both startling and alarming. Especially since I have known and worked closely with John Campbell for many years now, and know him to be a man of integrity. He would not bring this up unless he was very personally concerned.
Above I referenced Tom Campbell's column in last Saturday's FlashReport entitled, End The Pork Barrel Merry-Go-Round, above - and in light of John Campbell's stunning revelation, I have to admit that I look at these excerpts with a bit of skepticism. Here is one excerpt...
"Some in Congress have recently discussed reforms to make earmarks more transparent, or even a moratorium on the practice. Those steps are commendable, but true reform will only come when each member of Congress refuses to play the earmarking game for themselves."
Later in the piece, Campbell goes on to say:
"With our country drowning in red ink, and more spending on the way under the guise of health care reform, it is incumbent on all those in public office to redouble their efforts to kick the spending habit -- starting with themselves. Sadly, there are all too few in Congress who are willing to lead by example by steering clear of earmark requests."
So with my frustration level at Def Con 1, since there is nothing I detest more in politics than hypocrisy, I reached out to Tom Campbell to see if he would share his thoughts on John Campbell's interview...
First and foremost, Tom Campbell confirmed that he did, in fact, speak with John Campbell about the proposed amendment. He confirmed that he did ask Campbell to withdraw the amendment. He said that his concern was only to one of the spending items, funding to U.C. Berkeley for the study of the accuracy of cross-cultural understanding of other's emotions. Tom Campbell confirmed that he did, in fact, contact "friends of his" who were on the Appropriations Committee to lobby against John Campbell's proposal to strike these seven earmarks.
Not to gin up the hypocrisy DefCon rating for you as a reader, but Tom Campbell told me that when he spoke with John Campbell, he told Campbell that on the merits, he should not single out the "emotions study" (my wording) earmark for de-funding. In short, Tom Campbell justified his support for funding that study because he says it was supported by the United States Army, and by the National Science Foundation (which along with the National Endowments for the Humanities and the Arts is on the top of my list of federal entities to strip of all taxpayer dollars). He said that as a project approved by the Foundation it would have gone through "peer review" (What does that mean? That other researches on the public suck think that this project is a great way to help get other colleagues on the dole?) Campbell said that the study would ultimately assist military personnel deployed in areas of cultural difference from our own to be able to better understand non verbal gestures - he specifically used as an example that shaking ones head left to right here may mean something different somewhere else. Seriously.
It seems to me that specific "incident" flies face of the very proposal of Tom Campbell's, where he pledges to carry no earmarks at all. Does this mean that he truly supports across-the-board end of earmarks? Or does it mean that he supports broad moratoriums on earmarks unless he can justify them? Or maybe it's like John Campbell says in that interview, could it be that his recent anti-earmarking proposal smacks of political expediency?
Certainly one thing that was not present in Campbell's column, or in any of his rhetoric on the earmarking issue is that as a Member of Congress, and apparently afterward, he has supported egregious earmark spending. If he is going to have any credibility on calling for an end to this sort of wasteful spending going forward, he really ought to apologies for what he has supported in the past.
Oh, I should add, by the way, undoubtedly our military personnel are better prepared today because Tom Campbell was, in fact, successful in lobbying to kill John Campbell's amendment, which lost on a vote of 195-222. It is significant to note, however, that Tom Campbell was well out of the Republican main stream on this issue, as fewer than 10% of Republicans nationally opposed Campbell's amendment, and the entire California Republican delegation save one member, voted to support it! (Roll Call 289, 2007)
If you saw me shaking my head right now, you would be able to tell, without a government-funded study, that I am very disappointed.
Now, I will give the academics the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps all of these studies have some value to academicians and maybe the results are interesting to those who study these areas. That is not the question. The question is whether or not they rise to the level of public need that commands the use of taxpayer funds. We have a deficit. We are annually raiding the Social Security Trust Fund. The Democrats have proposed the largest tax increase in American history. Should we increase the deficit in order to better understand the sex practices of Phayre's leaf monkeys? Is it okay to take your Social Security money in order to have archives of Andean knotted-string records? Are you willing to increase your taxes for a report on the sexual politics of waste in Senegal? I'm not.
So, I proposed an amendment to strip these 7 projects and only these 7 projects out of the bill. It would have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars of your money. It failed by a vote of 195-222 on the floor of the House. If we cannot get a majority in this Congress to stop funding things like this, what will they vote to reduce? That's why I'm so adamant about not increasing taxes on anyone. We have to starve the beast of government because it will not go on a diet by itself.
Care to read comments, or make your own about today's Daily Commentary?