The editorial board at USA Today gave Rep. Brian Bilbray a national platform today to laud the House of Representatives’ move to ban anonymous earmarks.

Adopted by the House last week, the new rule will force representatives to publicly claim any appropriations of funds while curtailing the process which allowed them to do so anonymously.

Bilbray, who co-sponsored the amendment, wrote that the rule change would “blow away the fog of anonymity that surrounds our governing process.”

Last year, Bilbray’s predecessor, Randy “Duke” Cunningham, pleaded guilty to corruption charges after using anonymous earmarks to funnel millions of dollars in government contracts to defense contractors in exchange for millions in bribes.

Calling the change “fake reform,” USA Today took Bilbray and his colleagues to task in an opposing editorial, which also rebuked Congress for continuing to allow former congressional staffers to make millions lobbying their former bosses.

Last week, the House took the tiniest step imaginable to deal with earmarks. One of the worst aspects of earmarking is that lawmakers often do it secretly. Under a new rule, hailed by Rep. Brian Bilbray and other sponsors as a big deal, members will have to own up to earmarks they sponsor.

Wow. It took nearly nine months for the House to make members do what they should have been doing all along. And even this rule is riddled with loopholes: It doesn’t apply to 10 spending bills already passed by the House this year. Nor does it do anything to lock the revolving door that allows people … to get rich selling access to the people they used to work for.

Bilbray also called on Congress to adopt a two-year budget cycle, so that election-year politics won’t influence budget and appropriations decisions.

“I believe that decisions about the budget process should be made after elections, not before them,” Bilbray wrote.

In an interview Francine Busby, Bilbray’s opponent in the race for California’s 50th Congressional District, said she supports ending anonymous earmarking but criticized the rule change because it fails to eliminate previous earmarks and expires with this Congress later this year.

Busby also said she opposes Bilbray’s budget plan.

“Private companies have to report quarterly to their shareholders because of the need for accountability,” Busby said. “I think Congress should report back to the tax payers every year for the same reason.”


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