Last Wednesday, Rep. Denny Rehberg tweeted that it was time for Democrats in the Senate to "buck up" and ban earmarks. The next day he followed his tweet with a letter to Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester exhorting them to help him reverse the "antiquated spending culture where elected officials fight to spend more and more tax dollars."
"Earmarks represent the culture of spending that has led to record deficits and debts that are literally costing us our future," Rehberg wrote. "The inclusion of pet projects create incentives to vote for and pass bloated spending bills that don't otherwise pass the smell test."
But Rehberg's posturing can't mask his own pork stink. In fact, he's among the stinkiest of them all. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Rehberg sponsored or co-sponsored 89 earmarks totaling $103.5 million in fiscal year 2010, ranking him 5th out of the 435 representatives in the House. Democrats were quick to pounce on the hypocrisy.
"Congressman Rehberg lecturing his colleagues about spending is like hearing a drunk lecturing other people about drinking," Montana Democrats wrote in a craftily worded release, considering Rehberg's boozy history.
Dems also called Rehberg a flip-flopper. Know who else flip-flops? Tester, according to the Montana Republican Party. It slung the next insult in the schoolyard back-and-forth by pointing reporters to a blog post in the Weekly Standard lambasting Tester for "being against earmarks before he was for them."
All this flip-flop talk makes us hungry for some flapjacks from Paul's Pancake Parlor. It also points to the fact that no amount of syrup can sweeten the bitter pill we Montanans may soon need to swallow.
The truth is that all three members of Montana's delegation have sought and secured gobs of federal dollars for local projects. Tester sponsored or co-sponsored 92 earmarks totaling $108.4 million in fiscal year 2010, ranking 45th out of 100 senators. Max Baucus sponsored or co-sponsored 84 earmarks totaling $108.1 million, ranking 46th. We seldom complain when one of them brings home the bacon in the form of—to use a recent Rehberg earmark as an example—$10.6 million for an upgrade at Malmstrom Air Force Base. And it happens a lot. According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, Montana ranked sixth in the country in fiscal year 2010 in federal dollars received per capita—$124.77.
So the debate over whose manure stinks the least doesn't matter. In the midst of all this congressional fat trimming and belt tightening, let's instead come to terms with the fact that we pork-loving Montanans will be among the first to feel the squeeze.