Hillary’s Handouts

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The New York Sun

Senator Clinton will have to be pretty careful to avoid the “D word” when she addresses a meeting of the Democratic Leadership Council today. Not Democrat, but deficit. Although her fellow Democrats love complaining about the deficit and enjoy reminding voters that President Clinton left behind a surplus, Mrs. Clinton and her colleagues are currently in the midst of appropriations season. Sure enough, she’s confounding those who worried in 2000 that her presidential aspirations would distract her from her duty to represent New York by bringing home just as much bacon for her state as any other senator — or more.

It’s not that we object to earmarks per se or necessarily dislike any of the projects in question. But Mrs. Clinton has just co-authored an essay in the latest number of the DLC’s magazine, Blueprint, in which she calls for helping a million more people a year go to college by 2015 and proposes paying for that “by getting rid of wasteful business subsidies.” It seems a little odd that she doesn’t see the connection between her own pet projects and the “waste”she decries.

Consider the two defense appropriations bills the Senate appropriations committee approved last week. In the space of just a few minutes, Mrs. Clinton’s office sent out eight press releases in which she and Senator Schumer took credit for $409.1 million in spending in New York, at least $127.5 million of which looks suspiciously like pork. The Department of Defense appropriations bill includes $2 million for NanoDynamics, a technology company in Buffalo, to help develop “lightweight man portable power, chargers, and power management for dismounted soldiers,” following last year’s $2 million appropriation.The company’s chairman, Allan Rothstein, has contributed to Mrs. Clinton’s political action committee, as have the company’s president and vice president, Richard Berger and Glenn Spacht, as the Sun reported in December. Of $15 million being spent on Long Island, $2 million is going to STIDD Systems at Greenport, a company whose chief executive has donated generously to politicians of all stripes over the years.

The day before also witnessed a flurry of pork. Mrs. Clinton trumpeted her work to include $235.8 million for New York in the Water Resources Development Act, including an additional $20 million for the Onondaga Lake ecosystem restoration project and an authorization of $12 million ($7.8 million to come from the federal government) to “protect” the Montauk Point Lighthouse. The total of $8.55 million she inserted in the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriation and the Transportation, Treasury, Judiciary, and Housing and Urban Development spending bill seems like pennyante poker by comparison. That includes $1 million for Hofstra University’s “Safe and Sustainable Campus Plan” so that “those fine students at Hofstra University will have no excuse for being late to class,” in Mr. Schumer’s words. Time is money, apparently.

The Hofstra project is getting what Mrs. Clinton describes as a “tremendous boost.” Other beneficiaries of tremendous boosts include New York Presbyterian’s cardiac telemetry technology ($650,000) and CVPH Medical Center ($500,000). Coming in at a “great boost” are the New School University’s Institute for Urban Education ($950,000), Carnegie Hall’s national music education program ($250,000), and the virtual learning center at Albany Medical Center ($500,000). Those at the “real boost” level include the Hospital for Special Surgery ($500,000), the New York Hall of Science ($600,000), the nursing program at the Hudson Valley Community College ($500,000), and the North Country Children’s Clinic ($500,000).

In theory, earmarking offers legislators a way to circumvent the unaccountable bureaucracies that otherwise would divvy up federal dollars, as long as lawmakers exercise some self-restraint. But can Mrs. Clinton speak of reining in her fellow senators when she herself is responsible for $200,000 for wireless Internet in Albany and $800,000 for the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls? If she is elected president, she’ll need to be able to make trade-offs between budgetary priorities, and she isn’t establishing much of a track record doing that. One of her potential 2008 rivals, Senator McCain, has made fighting pork one of his trademark issues. Mrs. Clinton might show today at the DLC whether she can talk the talk on balancing fiscal priorities, perhaps in respect of higher education funding. She’s already having trouble walking the walk.

The New York Sun

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