(Washington, DC) -- Even as lawmakers led by Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ) gathered on Capitol Hill today to back bipartisan legislation to combat the practice of budget earmarks, millions of ordinary Americans were effectively standing shoulder-to-shoulder with them, thanks to a coalition of eight citizen groups. The coalition today made public a statement urging passage of the "Obligation of Funds Transparency Act." The effort was organized by the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU).
"[E]armarks are a major problem not only with the Congressional budget process, but with the integrity of the political process as a whole," the public letter to Rep. Flake noted. "In recent weeks, as Congress has reacted to scandals involving the close relationships of lobbyists to Members, the need for specific reforms has been acknowledged by elected officials and the media, not to mention the general public."
The diversity among signatories of the letter of endorsement underscores the importance of the earmarking issue to conservatives as well as "good government" advocates. Appearing on the letter were: NTU, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Taxpayers for Common Sense Action, American Conservative Union, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, FreedomWorks, and the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council. Collectively the groups represent millions of citizens.
The signers of the letter have also individually undertaken numerous activities on behalf of Flake's bill, which would better enable individual lawmakers to challenge earmarked spending on the floor of the House. NTU, for example, has sent e-mail alerts to 90,000 online subscribers, while the group's spokespeople have given radio and television interviews urging citizens to contact Congress in support of the legislation.
With lawmakers having slipped over 14,000 earmarks worth some $52 billion into spending bills during 2004, the signatories emphasized that passage of the "Obligation of Funds Transparency Act" (H.R. 1642) has become all the more urgent.
"The very least Congress should do when it considers necessary lobbying reforms is to allow for a public debate on the merits of pork-barrel spending and earmarks," the letter concluded. "It makes simple common sense to ask Members of Congress who want special spending projects in their districts to explain to taxpayers why their project should be funded."
NTU was founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, smaller government, and greater economic freedom. Note: The coalition letter is available online at www.ntu.org.