Jim DeMint deserves a lot of credit for his crusade against earmarks. While we were reminded recently by Andrew Sorensen that earmarks are not necessarily always a bad thing — they’ve brought significant research funding to our universities — there’s no question that the whole process was out of control. Sen. DeMint has played a leadership role in embarrassing Democrats and Republicans alike on the issue, and on the whole I think that has had a salutary effect.
I was a little taken aback the last couple of days, though, when I received releases from Sen. DeMint announcing grant money for schools back here in South Carolina. No, they weren’t technically "earmarks." But by "announcing" these grants that were ostensibly "competitive" — which suggests that they were disbursed according to some criteria other than the political pull of a member of Congress — he is participating in the standard political practice of suggesting to the home folks that he is somehow responsible for this largesse.
And that, of course, is why politicians go after earmarks — so they can say to the folks back home, "Lookee what I brung you!" Here’s the release I received today:
Department of Education Awards $955,101 in Competitive Grants to Richland and Lexington School District 5
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) announced that Richland and Lexington School District 5 will receive $955,101 in competitive grants under the Teaching American History Grants program. This grant is designed to raise student achievement by improving teacher’s knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of U.S. history. The program also aims to improve the quality of history instruction by supporting professional development for U.S. history teachers.
These releases do not cancel the cred Mr. DeMint has earned on the
earmarks issue. And they’re not a lot of money, and this one sounds like it’s
for a good cause (Lord knows we need to increase the level of understanding about our history in this country). They just seemed worth taking note of.