Earmark foe collects a few for his district

Advocate for earmark overhaul secured funds in Transportation-Treasury appropriations bill for at least two local projects.

Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, the chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, is alone among his top conservative allies in securing local earmarks, a review of recent fiscal 2007 appropriations bills indicates.

Pence's efforts demonstrate that while he is an outspoken national figure and advocate for conservative causes -- such as overhauling the earmark process -- it has not stopped him from securing funding for local projects. While voting against the $139.7 billion fiscal 2007 Transportation-Treasury spending bill last week, for example -- and voting for a series of amendments authored by his RSC colleague Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona to strip other members' earmarks -- Pence secured at least two of his own projects.

They include $500,000 for the "Transit Acquisition and Intermodal Facility Project" in his state, listed among dozens of bus and bus facilities grants, and $250,000 for construction of a park in Portland, Ind.

Pence's spokesman confirmed that the projects were his but declined to provide justifications for them. "Mr. Pence stands by his earmark requests," he said.

A spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation said the intermodal facility funds were part of a comprehensive state economic development plan. Portland's mayor, Bruce Hosier, said the money is part of a project involving trails, an education center, a meadow, pond and amphitheatre at the new park.

"When it comes to personalized service, Congressman Pence and his staff are second to no one," Hosier said. "They are very engaged in what you're trying to do."

Pence also secured earmarks in the $141.9 billion fiscal 2007 Labor-HHS measure, which has yet to reach the floor. Those include $200,000 each for Ball State University's Center for School Innovation in Muncie, Ind., and to the Madison County Community Health Center in Anderson Ind., for an electronic medical records system. He also secured $100,000 for Ivy Tech Community College's Columbus, Ind., campus for cybersecurity training.

Pence's spokesman said while his boss "has been an advocate for earmark reform" he has never suggested doing away with the entire process. When asked about his votes in favor of Flake's amendments stripping funds for earmarks important to other lawmakers, Pence's spokesman replied: "He found Mr. Flake's arguments persuasive."

Flake called for votes on two earmarks in House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis' district, including funds for a municipal pool and an athletic facility, as well as earmarks for Xerox Corp. facilities in upstate New York as well as for the West Virginia steel town of Weirton, represented by Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va.

Flake has not requested earmarks for the last several years since he was upbraided by appropriators on the House floor. Pence's other top RSC allies -- Reps. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, John Shadegg of Arizona, and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, author of the line-item veto legislation on the floor this week -- did not ask for earmarks this year, aides said.

Pence has not issued a press release trumpeting projects in his district since the massive $286.4 billion highway bill was enacted last year. Hurricane Katrina hit soon after, and Pence came out with his "Operation Offset" plan to pay for the rebuilding effort, including giving up his own highway bill projects.

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