From the Wall Street Journal Political Diary

VE Day – Victory Over Earmarks

Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona has crusaded against earmark abuses ever since he came to Congress in 2001. Today he can take satisfaction as the GOP conference prepares to approve a moratorium on members directing federal dollars to favored interests in their home districts. The move comes the same week that House Democrats announced a ban the granting of earmarks for profit-making entities that often return the favor by making campaign contributions to members.

“It’s a major step forward,” Rep. Flake told me yesterday. While the earmark process consumes only 1% of the federal budget, it was often used as a bargaining chip to reward members to support large increases in federal spending. “It was a classic case of ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch my much bigger back,'” he said.

Mr. Flake also plans to follow up his success today by forcing a vote demanding that the House Ethics Committee prove it did real work to uncover abuses in an earmark scandal involving the PMA Group, a lobbying firm that bestowed numerous campaign contributions on members who steered earmarks in the direction of its clients. The Ethics Committee exonerated seven members of Congress over their involvement with PMA despite evidence that key players in the scandal, including the late Rep. Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania, were never interviewed by it.

–John Fund