One of the odd things I hear about from time to time from many of my libertarian colleagues and friends is their perception that Texas Republican Ron Paul is a rare model of purity in a political pigsty.
I have many issues of agreement with Paul, particularly on health policy, and I've defended him publicly in the past on many of his calls for government reform. But this perception of Paul as a principled crusader who serves only the Constitution is at odds with his wholehearted embrace of typical pork-barrel politics - a difference which is all the more stark in the wake of House Republicans' voluntary ban on earmarks last year. The record on this is available to the public, but it attracts scant attention.
Paul made over $157 million in earmark requests for FY 2011, one of only four House Republicans to request any earmarks. Additionally, he made over $398 million in earmark requests for FY 2010, again one of the leading Republican House members. These earmark requests include:
- $8 million from federal taxpayers for Recreational Fishing Piers.
- $2.5 million from taxpayers for "new benches, trash receptacles, bike racks, decorative street lighting."
- $2.5 million from taxpayers to modify medians and sidewalks for an "Economically Disadvantaged" area.
- $2.5 million from federal taxpayers for a "Revelation Missionary Baptist Community Outreach Center."
- $38 million in multiple requests for literacy programs to "encourage parents to read aloud to their children."
- $18 million from federal taxpayers for a Commuter Rail Preliminary Engineering Phase (light rail).
- $4 million from federal taxpayers for the "Trails and Sidewalks Connectivity Initiative."
- $11 million from federal taxpayers for a "Community-Based Job Training Program."
- $2 million from federal taxpayers for a "Clean Energy" pilot project.
- $5 million from federal taxpayers in order to build a parking garage.
- $1.2 million for a "Low-income working families Day Care Program"
- $4.5 million from federal taxpayers for a new Youth Fair facility.
All of the above earmarks can be found on Paul's own congressional website. While Paul does not digitize the requests prior to FY 2011, they're still available as PDFs. Paul typically will make the earmark request, but then votes against or abstains from voting on final passage, so he can maintain his claim to have "never voted for an earmark", even the earmark requests he himself made. He defends the practice here.
I'm sure many of these earmarks have a logical rationale behind them. And many of these areas have good lobbyists. But we ought to never put a politician on such a pedestal that we fail to recognize their blemishes. It's better to keep your eyes open about it all.