“Earmarks,” also known as pork-barrel spending, are considered a “gateway drug” to corruption and bigger government in Washington. They got that well-deserved title because there’s a history of both Republicans and Democrats using earmarks as a currency to buy votes for all sorts of bad policies. Sometimes, members of Congress have actually taken bribes in exchange for obtaining earmarks. The system was abused so badly that Americans shamed both parties into passing a temporary ban on the practice.
Thankfully, there are very few Republicans left who still support earmarks. Regrettably, one of the remaining few is 35-year Indiana senator Richard Lugar. He continues to stand in favor of earmarks to this day. Recently, Lugar was one of only thirteen Republicans to join Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid in voting against a permanent ban on earmarks.
That was the final straw for the Club for Growth PAC, which has now endorsed Lugar’s conservative challenger, Indiana state treasurer Richard Mourdock.
Lugar’s vote against a permanent ban on earmarks will hopefully be the capstone on a decidedly big-government, anti-economic-growth voting record. Lugar is a good man, and in some ways he has served Indiana and our country well, but his 35-year career in Washington proves that he is no fiscal conservative. What our country needs, now more than ever, is genuine fiscal restraint and economic growth. Lugar has time and again voted to expand the size of government, raise taxes, and increase government regulation. Examples abound through the decades.
In 1978, Lugar voted to bail out New York City. In 1979, Lugar voted to bail out Chrysler with $1.5 billion in federal loan guarantees. In 1982, he voted to increase the gasoline tax. In 1983, he voted to increase Social Security taxes. In 1984, he voted against a 10 percent cut in the federal budget. In 1995, he voted against a work requirement for welfare recipients. In 1998, he voted against a $195.5 billion income-tax cut.
Lugar has voted to keep the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” earmark for Alaska and for a Democratic cap-and-trade scheme; he even voted against endorsing the view that Congress has a “moral obligation” to reduce deficit spending.
Senator Lugar has voted for endless bailouts, including the Wall Street bailout, the auto bailout, and the bailouts of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In 2010, he voted against Senate Republicans’ plans to temporarily stop requesting earmarks. The loud message sent by the 2010 elections did not change Lugar’s voting behavior. Last year, he voted to give President Obama the power to raise our national debt even higher.
Finally, earlier this month, Lugar voted against a permanent ban on earmarks, despite universal contempt for the practice and the fact that a ban is supported by most Republicans and most Americans.
Enough is enough. The Club for Growth PAC has watched Indiana for a long time. We looked for signs that Lugar had changed his ways, but we found none. Sadly, when it comes to solving our nation’s dire fiscal problems, Dick Lugar is not the answer; he’s part of the cause. Senator Lugar has had many opportunities to take America in a positive direction, but he has voted to keep the status quo.
There is no reason to believe that six more years from Richard Lugar in Washington will be different from the past 35 years. It’s time for him to come back home to Indiana. It’s time to move Washington in a more fiscally conservative direction.
— Chris Chocola, a former Indiana congressman, is president of the Club for Growth.