As the following pie chart shows, nearly 60% of Rep. Capuano’s 2010 earmark requests (totaling almost $80 million of tax-payer money) are for military research programs out of a total of close to $136 million in pet projects:
Pie Chart of Rep. Capuano’s 2010 Earmark Requests
Total earmarks : $135,957,263.00 or nearly $136 million.
This is an outrage on many levels! First of all, I don’t think it’s appropriate for Congresspeople to be making earmarks for pet projects at all, so I certainly don’t want my representative doing that. These are essentially a mix of no-bid contracts and pet projects designed to satisfy special interests. Earmarks are not democratic (they receive little debate), not accountable (not tracked), and not a good way to spend tax-payer money. Apparently, he sees no problem with earmarks (Lobbyists under scrutiny linked to Capuano donors on Boston.com):
“I think earmarks are perfectly appropriate as long as they are transparent,” he said. “All mine are. I think every one speaks for itself.”
If by “transparent”, former Somerville mayor Michael E. Capuano means that the earmarks are merely listed on his website, then that is not real transparency. Transparency would involve knowing how those earmarks were chosen, how closely the money is spent compared with the intended purpose, and how effective the given program is at meeting its goals.
Furthermore, as one of his constituents in the 8th District in Somerville, these earmarks do not reflect my priorities and I seriously doubt they reflect those of our district or our country. It is quite unfathomable how so much tax-payer money could be diverted from real priorities like public education, single-payer universal health care, and public transportation. Even President Obama has pledged to Cut Pork Barrel Spending although he has so far fallen short of that promise.
I am certain we will not see an end to war until we break the cycle of military earmarks and corrupt lobbying firms like the PMA Group. As long as there are handsome profits to be made in the war business, war will continue and the Military-Industrial complex will grow ever bigger.
A short note on the categories… by “military programs”, I am referring to both “military / health” and “military / tech”. I have used these categories for earmarks whose purpose was for military systems or that focused on treating soldiers or veterans. Of course, most research for military programs are “dual use” with civilian applications. In such research, it is often hard to tell which technologies are designed for defense v. offense. Notice that “military / health” is the largest category, and this reflects the reality that war comes with a heavy toll on the health of our service personnel.
Full disclosure: I used to work for BBN Technologies, which Capuano earkmarked for $2 million towards the “Acoustic Gun Detection System for Tracked Combat Vehicles”. Interestingly, in the description for this item, it says “Initial prototype integration proved promising however, funding has not been allocated to allow for formal, fieldable integration.” I wonder why the “formal, fiedable integration” was not approved? Anyway, I no longer work for any of the intended recipients of earmark money.
Check out my compilation of the earmarks and the official list of Capuano’s 2010 earmarks with their descriptions. There are some rather odd pet projects in there, like one for “Precision Airdrop Resupply Technologies”, a “Soldier Situational Awareness Wrist Band”, anti-reflective coatings for missile seeker optics, and my favorite : the “Clean Lightweight Area Weapon” which is billed as “an affordable, highly effective, unexploded ordnance-safe replacement for legacy cluster weapons” (just what we need!).
By the way, if you’re free on Thurs, April 23, you can discuss Capuano’s earmarks (and anything else on your mind) with a member of his staff at city hall, according to the Somerville Journal in Capuano staffer visits Somerville April 23.
I want an investigation into how these earmarks were chosen. He claims he didn’t know about the political contributions he received from the PMA Group lobbying firm, but he should have checked into it before earmarking millions of dollars for its members! We need to send Capuano a strong signal that we’re watching him and we won’t tolerate his earmarks! And if he doesn’t stop, then we will work to find his replacement! Are you with me?