Cover Story

Pigging out

"Pigging out" Continued...

Issue: "Our pork," Dec. 8, 2007

Russ Reid Company successfully lobbied for other Christian organizations this year, including World Impact, a Christian ministry that plants churches and conducts community enrichment programs in inner-city neighborhoods across the country.

As a result of the lobbying efforts, legislators inserted $1.9 million in earmarks for World Impact projects in California, Kansas, and Missouri. (That figure will likely be smaller when the spending bills are finalized.)

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., included an $850,000 earmark in the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development spending bill for World Impact's Morning Star Ranch in Florence, Kan. Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., inserted $50,000 into the House version of the bill for the World Impact ranch.

World Impact president Keith Phillips told WORLD that the organization would use the funds to jumpstart the building of needed facilities at the ranch. The Kansas ranch serves troubled young men, including gang members, addicts, and delinquents, through a Christian-based program focused on discipline, job training, and personal responsibility.

Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., also included a $750,000 earmark for World Impact to renovate a former YMCA in downtown St. Louis. Phillips says the renovated building will serve as a community center and a hub for emergency assistance, including distribution of food and clothing. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., earmarked $150,000 for the project in the House.

Bond, who sits on the Senate's spending committee, inserted more than $100 million in earmarks for other projects across his home region this year. Citizens Against Government Waste designated one of Bond's projects as one of the "most egregious" items in a financial services bill: $750,000 for an Asian Equities Research Center.

Bond defended all the Missouri earmarks he authored, telling WORLD he works to ensure the state receives "the resources needed for critical projects."

Russ Reid Company lobbied for other Christian organizations this year as well, including Covenant House, a faith-based organization serving homeless youth in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Rep. Ron Klein, D-Fla., inserted a $200,000 earmark for a Covenant House program aimed at helping pregnant teens.

Covenant House spokeswoman Paula Tibbetts said the earmark's final approval is still up in the air. She also said that the group already receives federal funding from HHS and HUD for housing projects and that the group is open to audits and reviews.

Other Christian organizations actively seeking earmarks include World Vision, an international Christian relief agency. The group hired Russ Reid Company from 2002 to 2004 and contracted a different lobbying firm from 2005 to 2006. World Vision received about $5.4 million in earmarks from 1998 to 2005 for poverty-fighting programs.

Romanita Hairston, a vice president at World Vision, said earmarks have been one of the group's most cost-effective funding streams: World Vision spent about $575,000 to procure the $5.4 million in earmarks. The group also pursues competitive grants.

World Impact's Phillips defended seeking earmarks, saying World Impact relieves a financial and social burden on the federal government by providing crucial services to communities. He told WORLD that his organization pursues competitive grants as well.

Phillips also noted that if groups like World Impact don't receive earmarks, the funds will go elsewhere: "Most of your readers would rather have the funds go to a faith-based ministry . . . rather than one that does not share their moral views."

Sen. Coburn shares World Impact's Christian views, but he says the problem isn't who gets earmarks. Instead, Coburn told WORLD: "The process stinks."

The process of how an earmark becomes law is complicated and murky: First, legislators must submit applications for earmarks to congressional committees, outlining the purpose and need for the intended projects. Some lawmakers hold hearings and visit project sites to demonstrate their understanding of the projects' needs.

But procedures for submitting applications differ for each committee, and legislators need an understanding of the unwritten rules for gaining support for their earmarks among committee members.

Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., prides herself on understanding the system, and she admits the process rewards those with inside knowledge. Brown has lined up more than $7 million in earmarks for her home district this year but says she won't share her methods, even with friends like Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Texas Democrat with only $800,000 in earmarks.

"Eddie Bernice Johnson is my best friend, but I never discuss appropriations with her," Brown told Congressional Quarterly. "We're going after the same thing."

The problem with such an insider's system, according to Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense, is that Congress isn't asking: "Would another group be better at this? Should we be funding this at all?" Ellis told WORLD earmarks are often awarded based on "muscle, not merit."

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