A new way to bribe Congress

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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Mark Krikorian is appropriately scornful of NASA’s pathetic move to name the Hubble data archive after the Senator (Mikulski) who controls their appropriations.

Has NASA really run out of fallen astronauts to name things after?

Maybe there should be a law that prohibits naming anything after a sitting (or living) legislator? Or even a dead legislator. That might actually be more effective than banning earmarks. Some earmarks, after all, may reflect a legitimate disagreement between local representatives and the federal bureaucrats who would otherwise decide the allocation of funds. But it’s hard to trust a legislator’s calculation of the public interest if what he’s funding has, or will have, his name on it.

Krikorian argues the mentality that needs to be erased is the idea that elected officials do such hard work spending other people’s money that they deserve the credit. But the NASA case suggests a different, seemingly fresher danger: ambitious or desperate bureaucracies seek to maintain funding by bribing legislators with glory even if those legislators don’t seek it. That goes beyond earmarks, in that it’s designed to artificially boost even regular, non-earmarked spending. …

Backfill–Too Good to Google! Here’s a bill to rule out sitting legislators, introduced by Rep. McCaul of Texas. I deny that it would solve only a “problem of perception.” It seems to me there would be fewer projects built. … Legislators could still take credit for projects and raise money around projects. They could still preside over bribing their constituents. Just not themselves. … See also this McGurn column, which notes that John Boehner  “vowed to ‘outlaw’ these monuments to me if Republicans won the House.” It doesn’t look like any ban passed the Congress. … It also looks possible that a naming ban would provide cover for a relaxation of the earmark ban. …

Mickey Kaus