Tim Johnson Watch

Representative Tim Johnson was elected to represent the residents of Illinois' 15th Congressional District in Central Illinois. His constituents should know what he's doing.

Location: 15th Congressional District, Illinois, United States

A concerned citizen of Central Illinois.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Johnson Neither Cutting Fat Nor Bringing Home Bacon

Republicans in Congress are nervous that Americans are tired of Congress's culture of corruption after 12 years of GOP control, but not nervous enough to really do anything about. This week, Tim Johnson joined in an effort to put a figleaf over the problem of porkbarrel spending. From the New York Times:
Nine months after Congressional leaders vowed to respond to several bribery scandals with comprehensive reforms, their pledges have come to next to nothing.

On Wednesday, leaders of the House prepared to take up a rule requiring individual lawmakers to sign their names to some of the pet projects they tuck into major tax and spending bills. As an internal House rule, the requirement would be in effect only until the end of the session, just a few weeks away....

Some called the proposed rule almost pointless since members are often eager to boast of the earmarks they secure for constituents. “There is an element you can’t legislate, and that is shame,” said Representative Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona and a frequent critic of earmarks. “You have got to have some embarrassment when you bring to the floor an earmark for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”...

But Fred Wertheimer, president of the reform advocacy group Democracy 21, called the dispute over the scaled-back earmark rule “absurd.”

“They have had months to reach an agreement even among House Republicans about what this fig leaf should look like,” he said, “and they still haven’t been able to do it.”
In other words, Johnson decided to vote for a bill that would accomplish little and, more important, would table efforts at real reform, so incumbents could campaign on the assertion that they have done something.

While Johnson thus enabled to continuing survival of the earmark system, it seems that he may not be playing that system to his constituents' advantage. While definitive numbers are hard to come by (indeed, that's part of the problem), some recent evidence is suggestive that Mr. Johnson's not doing all that well on this score. The Examiner gives us a rare glimpse into the breakdown of Congressional earmarks, and reports that "the Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations measure ... presently contains 1,867 earmarks worth more than a half-billion tax dollars and averaging nearly $268,000 each". If you do the math, that works out to about $1,150,000 per district. How does Illinois's 15th do? By my count, only $850,000 -- or less than 75% of the national average. This is not an Illinois problem, as the average Illinois district (excluding the 15th) takes in $1,110,000, almost exactly the national average.

So why is it that with a Republican Representative in a Republican Congress the 15th can't even approach the national average? TJW would like to have a Representative who's fighting to cut the fat, but if we can't have that, why can't we have one who will bring home the bacon....?


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