2012-04-13 / Letters

Rolling In Pork

Dear Editor,

Recent news that Democratic State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is considering resuming Pork Barrel Member Item spending is bad news for taxpayers. How many stories have we read concerning corruption of individuals and organizations who are recipients of member item spending?

Every year, ordinary Americans, businesses and foundations combine to donate several hundred billion dollars to tens of thousands of charities. Why do elected officials see the need to use tax revenues to fund their own donations to charities? These are known as member items and in too many cases have in the past really been pork barrel projects. Why can’t they make their own personal direct charitable donations to the charities of their choice? Just how much cash do elected officials personally donate to charities each year out of their own salaries? Many could dip into excessive surplus campaign funds to make a donation. They could also host a fundraiser asking some of their regular campaign contributors to support charities. In addition to financial contributions, millions of Americans also donate time each week to perform volunteer work at their favorite charity. How many public officials do the same?

Too many members view the funding of member item pork barrel projects as a path to grease the wheels of reelection or run for higher public office. Like a monkey on their back, they appear to be addicted to this spending. Speaker Silver uses this as a tool to keep his loyal flock in line. Vote as directed by the “leadership,“ and you will receive your share of this pot of gold. Those few Democrats who have to run in competitive races receive “extra” earmarks from Silver courtesy of taxpayers.

It is common knowledge about the quid pro quo between those seeking funding and members of the State Legislature. This sometimes includes campaign contributions from the recipients’ senior management, hiring of public officials’ family, relatives or friends along with political clubhouse colleagues by the recipients, invitations to ribbon cutting ceremonies, prominent promotions in recipient newsletters, along with honoring the elected official at the organization’s annual fundraising dinner, etc. in exchange for receipt of the funding.

It is time to permanently end pork barrel member item spending once and for all.

LARRY PENNER

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