Most all members of Congress report back to their constituents with news of particular earmarks they fought for and won on behalf of their districts, but some -- notably Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo. -- post all earmark projects that have been requested by constituents. And as the congressman found out this week, this practice leaves the door open to rumors and widespread speculation.
The rumor mill started turning Wednesday afternoon after it was reported that Rep. Cleaver's website listed an astoundingly large earmark request -- $48 billion -- from one constituent hoping to fund a massive anti-poverty/redistribution of wealth project out of his home-based non-profit child care center in Kansas City.
It was this particular request, listed at the tail end of an earmark request spreadsheet posted on Rep. Cleaver's website, which caught the attention of Mike Jensen of the Southeast Missourian. In a column titled "Redistribution on Steroids," Jensen correctly identified the $48 billion request as the "granddaddy of all earmarks."
Proposed by a gentleman named Lamar Mickens, president of the not-for-profit Quality Day Campus, the $48 billion earmark would funnel money into the inner cities to give money to the poor and thereby produce a much larger consumer class to buy the goods and services produced in this country.
Just call this redistribution on steroids. ...
It didn't take long for this unreal story of government-gone-bad to light fire on the blogosphere. A number of conservative bloggers echoed the story, claiming Rep. Cleaver had proposed the earmark request to be appropriated with taxpayer money. But Cleaver's office vehemently denies the report.
Cleaver's communications director, Danny Rotert, told The Blaze Thursday that the story is a case of the blogosphere run amok and the notion the congressman would ask such an appropriation is ridiculous. According to Rotert, the $48 billion request was posted on the congressman's website in accordance with his commitment to transparency for his constituents.
Indeed, the Wall Street Journal also confirmed with press assistant Mary Petrovic that the earmark request was never given a second thought. "We did not propose it, we do not promote it, and we did not submit it to the House Appropriations Committee," Petrovic said.
Lamar Mickens, the head of the non-profit that made the request, said he wants the money to construct apartments, museums and social services centers in the eastern urban core of Kansas City, but said he did not know if Mr. Cleaver acted on the request. Mr. Cleaver’s office also declined to tell Taxpayers for Common Sense whether the congressman asked for the money.
But after a state newspaper columnist described the earmark as something Mr. Cleaver had “proposed,” a Cleaver spokeswoman said today that he hadn’t done so. “We did not propose it, we do not promote it, and we did not submit it to the House Appropriations Committee,” said Mary Petrovic.
All this is not to say that Congress doesn't have an addiction to earmarks. The omnibus proposal currently up for consideration includes thousands of earmarks worth billions of dollars of taxpayer money. But rest assured, the reported $48 billion earmark from Cleaver's office is not one of them.