Problem: Your congressional district needs federal funds to keep from disintegrating into an anarchic wasteland of broken infrastructure and roads made out of abandoned plastic Wal-Mart junk, but you hate federal spending and want to ban earmarks. Solution: Just ask/coerce federal agencies very nicely, and they will give you money for your district. And, surprise, earmark-haters like Mark Kirk like to do this. This is apparently called “lettermarking” when it is requested in a letter and “phonemarking” when done over the phone. So, are earmarks made by a member of Congress literally dipping an ear in ink and using it to write the appropriation into the legislation? Perhaps they should get more credit than we thought for that.
But a New York Times review of letters and e-mail to government agencies from members of Congress shows that the practice is widespread despite the fact that both President George W. Bush and President Obama have issued executive orders instructing agencies not to finance projects based on communications from Congress.
Who are you going to listen to: The boss of the boss of your boss, or the people who pay to keep your bureaucratic department running? Actually it doesn’t matter, because unless your part of the bureaucracy is a hot-button issue, it will perpetuate itself forever, whether it needs to exist or not.
But you may as well give Mark Kirk what he wants. Look at that face!
Cakemarks are probably a good option. You spell out your request in icing, and then suddenly your pet project gets millions of dollars. At least then the bureaucrats get something out of it, right? Everyone loves cake.
Or skywritingmarks? Pretty romantic. [NYT]