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From Grazing Ground To Killing Fields

That’s how Stephen Spruiell of National Review Online characterized the change Jeff Flake would bring to the House Appropriations Committee, if only GOP leaders had the courage to “Make It Flake”. This week, in a huge win for conservative activists, Speaker-designate John Boehner expressed clear support for bringing the five-term Arizona legislator and anti-earmark crusader to the committee. 

The Appropriations Committee, known by convicted felon and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff as the “earmark favor factory”, doles out federal funds often times in the form of pork-barrel spending requested by Representatives for a special interest back in the district. 

FreedomWorks has long backed putting Flake on the Appropriations Committee with our “Make It Flake” campaign, urging then Minority Leader Boehner to put Flake shoulder to shoulder with the big spending porkers that carry exorbitant influence on Capitol Hill. It was once said that the late Democratic Rep. John Murtha, then chairman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, always had an aisle seat in the House of Representatives so members could genuflect before him and beg that their earmark be funded.

Flake’s ascension to House Appropriations Committee is a well-deserved victory for a principled legislator who has never taken an earmark and has been the leading voice in what was not too long ago a lonely fight against pork barrel spending. When Republicans lost control of the House back in 2006, Flake was tossed off the prestigious House Judiciary Committee, a punishment The Wall Street Journal blamed on Flake’s “porkbusting”.

Republicans lost the House in ‘06 because they had become indiscernible from Democrats, forgoing their limited government principles for short-term political gain. This mistake was pointed out by Flake in his appearance on 60 Minutes just before the 2006 midterm elections. 

Flake has brazenly confronted the earmarks of his colleagues and he doesn’t discriminate between Democrats and Republicans. One of Flake’s most heroic moments came in 2007 on the floor of the House when he opposed Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s earmark on a Defense bill.

Fast forward to 2010 and earmarking is the new taboo. Legislators on both sides of the aisle have come out against the practice, with the Republican caucus in the House passing a full earmark moratorium and Democrats passing a for-profit earmark moratorium. What began with legislators like Flake, took off because of grassroots pressure from the Tea Party movement. 

It’s because of the grassroots that a politician, once removed from Judiciary for opposing earmarks, is now placed on Appropriations because of his principled position against them. That’s changing the culture in Washington. 

The GOP Leadership's choice for the Appropriations chair however, Kentucky "Prince of Pork" Hal Rogers, is a troubling pick