By John Solomon
How the government's punishing of the exposure of official wrongdoing can linger for years
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
While the rest of Congress was struggling to avoid the dreaded fiscal cliff late last year, then-Sen. John Kerry whisked off to London with a top aide. It was a classic farewell trip for a veteran Democrat about to become America’s next secretary of state.
The sequester cuts are now officially in place, but many government agencies appear to be hiring freely anyway.
Most Americans have never heard of the Risk Management Agency, but the obscure Agriculture Department office spreads good cheer and millions of dollars in grants each year to industry trade groups and universities in the name of promoting economic stability in the farming industry by reducing risk.
Most Americans have never heard of the Risk Management Agency, but the obscure U.S. Agriculture Department office spreads good cheer and millions of dollars in grants each year to industry trade groups and universities in the name of promoting economic stability in the farming industry by reducing risk.
The Senate's emergency spending bill to cover costs from Hurricane Sandy includes millions of dollars that will never touch the affected Northeast — including money for salmon fisheries in Alaska, cash for an expansion of train service into New York, and funds to preserve and repair historic properties.
With less than two months left for Washington to avoid an impending fiscal crisis that could drive economic recovery into a tailspin, President Obama will break away from negotiations to spend four days on a diplomatic trip to Southeast Asia.
A federal agency needs illusionist David Copperfield to help escape from criticism over now-canceled plans to hire a speaker to train agency leaders using "magic tools."
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta commutes home to Monterey, Calif., nearly every weekend on a government jet and reimburses just a fraction of the cost to taxpayers — an arrangement that is coming under scrutiny during Washington's tough budget times.
Even as the government's dim fiscal picture pushes all sides to try to sweat savings out of the budget and all sides say carve-outs should be on the table, Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill are proposing their own special breaks, known as "tax expenditures" in legislative-speak, for items such as clean energy and student-loan repayments for veterinarians.
It's the most populous state in the union, with an economy larger than most countries and a former governor who is the former "Terminator." But when times are tough, California turns to the big guns, the mercenaries who give voice to the voiceless: Washington lobbyists.
A key aide to D.C. politicians recently earned more than $200,000 working as chief of staff in a city agency in charge of rebuilding city schools, but he wasn't on the government's payroll. Instead, he was hired through a nearly quarter-million-dollar no-bid contract.
Capitol Hill insiders say at least 75 percent of lawmakers privately still think earmarking is a correct and proper use of congressional authority. Yet last week, one of the Senate's champion earmarkers, Sen. Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii, hammered home the nail that officially ended the practice — at least for the time being.
It may have looked like boom times for earmarkers in 2006, when they carved out a record $29 billion in projects — but little did lawmakers realize that a perfect storm of events the year before had set the clock ticking on pork.
Attorneys for one-time superlobbyist Paul Magliocchetti cite his $700,000 in charitable donations as one of the reasons he should not be sentenced to prison on Friday after he pleaded guilty to making hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions.
Newly emboldened earmark foes are calling on President Obama to back up his opposition to pork-barrel spending with action.
Ellis said extravagant travel costs -- like first-class tickets and military VIP flights -- should come out of the pocket of the lawmakers, not the taxpayer. “Lawmakers fail to recognize they are seers of the taxpayer dollar,” he said.
"Every position you don't fill that isn't absolutely necessary is one less person that needs to be furloughed," said Steve Ellis, vice president at Taxpayers for Common Sense — though he said some positions that people leave need to be filled in order to meet agencies' core missions.