Earmark frenzy: Towns compete for Congressional largesse

Published: Saturday July 1, 2006

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Cities, towns, school districts, and other local governments and agencies are turning to lobbyists to pry loose federal dollar, the New York Times will report Sunday.

Since 1998, the number of lobbyists for such public entities has doubled, the paper will report.

According to the Times, "Most of these new clients had never sought earmarks -- some had never even heard of them -- before someone knocked on their door, essentially offering big pots for a pittance. Others had read in the newspaper about neighbors with lobbyists building bridges or beach walks and felt pressure to keep up with the municipal Joneses."

Excerpts from NYT article written by Jodi Rudoren and Aron Pilhofer:


Rebuffed on several requests for state and federal financing to help rebuild its crumbling bridge, this small resort town was all but resigned to raising the money by doubling the 50-cent bridge toll, increasing property taxes and issuing bonds.

But in a last-ditch gambit, city officials hired a federal lobbyist who had known the local congressman for four decades. Within weeks, the congressman, Representative C. W. Bill Young, called the mayor to say he had slipped a special $50 million appropriation, known as an earmark, into an omnibus bill.

The city had originally sought $25 million. But Mr. Young a Republican who was then the all-powerful chairman of the Appropriations Committee and, as his lobbyist friend knew, believes public roads should be free raised it to eliminate the toll.

Since that windfall three years ago, Treasure Island has continued to pay $5,000 a month to the lobbying firm, Alcalde & Fay, and has continued to reap earmarks: $500,000 to fix a sewer plant, $625,000 to repair wooden walkways over the dunes, $450,000 for pedestrian crosswalks.

"They're worth every penny they get," said Mayor Mary Maloof, who led a parade of antique cars to open the new bridge on June 10.