Stimulus Haters Quietly Sought Money

President Obama and others have noted from time to time the hypocrisy of some Republican lawmakers who voted against the economic stimulus but have appeared at ground-breaking events.

The Center for Public Integrity has a new report that picks up on that theme. The reports title pretty much captures the phenomenon: "Stimulating Hypocrisy: Scores of Recovery Act Opponents Sought Money Out of Public View"

NPR's Audie Cornish reported for Morning Edition on the CPI investigation that found while lawmakers avoided using earmarks in appropriations bill since that was a little too obvious and politically radioactive.

Instead, they used something called "lettermarking."

An excerpt from the web version of her report:

But the Center for Public Integrity has discovered that lawmakers, instead of going through the congressional earmark process, have written directly to federal departments with backdoor requests for stimulus funds. It's a practice known as lettermarking, says John Solomon, an investigative journalist for the center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research group.

"The letters one day were on my desk, and they were a foot high. ... I couldn't look over my desk and see my colleagues across the hallway," he says, "because literally there was a mountain of paper."

The center collected the letters using federal agency sources and the Freedom of Information Act.

The Obama administration tried to insulate the bill from lettermarks by ordering agencies not to consider the requests, Solomon says. But the calls and letters poured in, he says, from everyone from Democrats who had crowed there would be no earmarks to Republicans who had panned the stimulus bill for failing to create jobs.

"But when they wrote the letter to try to get money for their local district or local company, they said, 'This project is going to create jobs, and we hope you give it stimulus money,' and so their letters undercut the arguments they make politically on the campaign trail or on FOX and MSNBC," he says.

This behavior has struck Dick Pohlman, former Philadelphia Inquirer political writer and others, as eerily reminiscent of one of the most famous movie scenes of all time, Captain Renault's "shock" that there was gambling in Rick's Cafe right before he received his winnings from a casino employee. And so it is.

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