10.01.2008 0

Baucus Bonds: Always a Good Investment!

  • On: 10/08/2008 16:39:43
  • In: Congressional Earmarks
  • Every so often, an individual’s behavior is so egregious that his name enters the English language as a term of derision. There’s “Judas.” There’s “Boycott.” There’s “Hooker.” And now, there’s “Baucus Bonds,” derived from “baucusing”:

    Pronunciation: \bo?-k?s\
    Function: verb
    Etymology: Senator Max Baucus (D-MT)
    Date: 2008

    : to extravagantly waste taxpayer funds in pursuit of one’s own selfish political ends.

    According to the Republican Study Committee, Senator Max Baucus has passed on a $250 million earmark to the Nature Conservancy, a very wealthy environmental organization. The purpose of the taxpayer-funded earmark is to incentivize the Conservancy to purchase land from the Plume Creek Timber Company. Plume Creek, not so coincidentally, is a business whose employees have donated nearly $17,000 to Mr. Baucus’ campaign war chest during this election cycle:

    “Democrats are once again breaking their promise of government transparency, accountability and reform. Tucked away deep within the Farm Bill (H.R. 2419) is a special-interest earmark inserted by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) for the “Qualified Forestry Bonds Program.” This program would provide federally funded-tax credit bonds, “Baucus Bonds,” for forest purchases that meet the following standards:

    • “The forest must be adjacent to U.S. Forest Service Land;
    • “Half of the parcel must be turned over to the U.S. Forest Service;
    • “It must include at least 40,000 total acres; and
    • “It must be subject to a ‘native fish habitat conservation plan approved by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.’

    “Within the entire United States, only one land area qualifies for the earmark – a 1.6 million acre piece of land that stretches from Montana to Washington State, owned by the Plum Creek Timber Company. The Plum Creek Timber Company is attempting to sell the land to the ‘Nature Conservancy’ – which the Washington Post exposed as the ‘world’s richest environmental group, amassing $3 billion in assets.’ The earmark would allow the Nature Conservancy to claim a $250 million ‘tax refund,’ providing incentive for the group to purchase the land from Plum Creek. The tax refund would be provided even though the Nature Conservancy is a non-profit group that does not pay taxes.

    “According to the FEC website, employees of Plum Creek Timber have donated nearly $17,000 to Senator Baucus’ war chest during this election cycle alone. Senator Baucus not only included ‘Baucus Bonds’ in the Farm Bill, he also put them in last year’s energy bill – despite the fact that this special interest earmark would have nothing to do with agriculture or energy. The ‘Baucus Bonds’ would provide $250 million in taxpayer funds to help provide incentive for the richest environmental group in the world to buy land from donors of Senator Baucus.”

    This sort of extravagant abuse of taxpayer money almost makes one long for the days of Tammany Hall, when at least the politicians bribed people with their own money. Nowadays, politicians pad their pockets with their own money – and bribe their cronies with tax grants. Then, of course, their corrupt cronies return the favor in the form of campaign contributions. And that, quite simply, is what’s known as a racket.

    This is but one example of the endemic problem of earmarks in Washington. According to Citizens Against Government Waste, this is a costly problem for the American taxpayer, who for the 2008 fiscal year spent $17.2 billion in earmarks out of a total 11,610 pork-barrel projects. That’s a 30 percent increase from the prior year’s budget.

    Clearly, Senator Baucus is not alone, but shared culpability does not mitigate a crime. In fact, it enhances its heinousness. Defenders of earmarks will often note that these special projects do not make up a significant portion of the budget, which for 2008 was $2.9 trillion. $17.2 billion only represents .59 percent of the federal budget. However, the earmarks represent 6.6 percent of the roughly $260 billion budget deficit for the 2008 fiscal year. And, they rob honest taxpayers of their hard-earned money.

    In other words, those earmarks do make up a significant portion of the budget deficit, which could be cut if “Baucus Bonds” of every sort were banned all together. Clearly, it’s time to put an end to baucusing – along with its namesake himself, who has not lived fulltime in his native Montana since coming to Washington 34 years ago. And that may explain a lot.

    ALG Perspective: Whether or not the term “baucus” comes into general use, there can be no question that a $250 million “tax refund” to an organization that does not even pay taxes and meanwhile is worth $3 billion is an extravagant waste of money. And there is no doubt that the Plum Creek Timber Company will then take that money from Nature Conservancy and put it right back into Senator Baucus’ war chest. So, in the end, some part of that $250 million earmark goes right back into Mr. Baucus’ political re-election campaign. Isn’t politics great.

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