The Sneaky Way Lawmakers Get Around the Earmark Ban
Jim DeMint /
In the midst of the horrifying allegations that Planned Parenthood has been selling organs of aborted babies, there’s been at least a bit of good news from Washington. On Tuesday, the House of Representatives scrapped a floor vote which would have given millions of taxpayer dollars to the Susan G. Komen organization, which in turn supports Planned Parenthood.
It’s unfortunate that some charitable organizations involve themselves in the terrible business of the abortion industry. But until they extricate themselves, the American people shouldn’t be forced to participate in their controversial activities.
The effort to funnel money into the organization revolved around making a set of commemorative coins. While this might sound innocuous, the commemorative coin process has been twisted by Congress to get around restrictions on earmarks and pork spending.
Here’s how it works: Congress tells the U.S. Mint to make a set of commemorative coins. The value of the coins would pay for themselves when purchased by collectors, but then a large surcharge is added—up to $35. All of this extra money goes straight to an organization related to the thing featured on the coin. This organization is often conveniently located in the home district or state of the congressmen and senators supporting the commemoration. Take note, numismatists! You wouldn’t have to pay 10 bucks for a limited edition dollar coin if Congress wasn’t padding the price!
Planned Parenthood’s grim connection to Susan G. Komen aside, cancer research is a worthy goal—and taxpayers already give millions a year for Washington to pay for it. But it’s not the federal government’s job to run the mint as a gift shop for certain organizations. Even with Susan G. Komen off the bill, co-sponsor Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., will still be getting a windfall for another foundation in her home district.
To show how silly this process can get, look at the “San Francisco Old Mint Commemorative Coin Act,” introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., a few years ago. The act directed the U.S. Mint to mint a coin commemorating another mint, and all profits from the surcharges went to the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society back home. Now, museums are great, but it seems that San Franciscans should pay for their own.
Congress has been abusing commemorative coins this way for some time, especially since earmarks—random amendments appropriating money for special interests and pet projects—were banned four years ago. Senators and representatives who loved spending taxpayer money on politically helpful ventures were quick to seize upon commemorative coins as a new source of cash.
When I was in the Senate I sponsored a bill to put a stop to these shenanigans along with Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich. Congress should renew the fight to eliminate this backdoor source of earmarks for politicians.
It’s dishonest for senators and congressmen to use commemorative coins as a way to get around the earmark ban, whether it’s for a good cause or a bad cause. Our elected leaders shouldn’t force Americans, through government sales, to support certain favored organizations.