Push is on to name Flake to Appropriations Committee

National taxpayer associations are pushing Republican leaders to name U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake to serve on the House Appropriations Committee, a position that Flake has promised to use in his crusade to expose and slow earmark spending.

Earmarks are pieces of legislation that direct federal funds to be spent on specific projects, generally in the districts of the lawmakers who write the measures.

Last year, Congress approved nearly 12,000 earmarks worth more $20 billion for roads, bridges, water towers, teapot museums, blackbird management projects, demolition of a beef processing plant and thousands of other projects.

Flake doesn’t seek earmarks and has positioned himself as a monkey wrench in the congressional machine that churns them out. The Republican from Arizona sent a letter to Republican leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, seeking a seat on the committee early this month.

“I just thought that there should be somebody on the committee who’s interested in oversight,” Flake told the Tribune on Tuesday. “Out of 29 Republicans, we’re just not getting enough of it right now. That’s pretty apparent.”

The Washington-based tax watchdog group FreedomWorks launched a Web site dedicated to pushing Flake’s selection to the committee on Friday. The site provides the phone numbers and e-mail addresses of the Republican House Steering Committee members who will make the selection late this week or early next week.

The site: www.makeitflake.com.

FreedomWorks executives also distributed “Make It Flake” lapel stickers to representatives and staffers who returned to Washington for the start of the 2008 session Tuesday.

“We’ve issued a call to action to our nationwide members,” said Adam Brandon, a spokesman for FreedomWorks. “We sent out tens of thousands of e-mails to our members around the country. We just figured this is just a great thing to get behind.”

The Make It Flake campaign marks the first time the group has tried to influence a committee selection, but Flake’s selection is unique, he said.

“Republicans have lost their brand identity, and Appropriations is the place where so many of the bad things in Washington happen, so the opportunity to get a good guy in on the inside, we’ve got to jump at that,” Brandon said.

Others have jumped at it as well. Citizens Against Government Waste, Taxpayers for Common Sense, and Americans for Prosperity are also generating phone calls and e-mails to support Flake.

The Wall Street Journal called Flake the “Anti-Appropriator” in a supportive Jan. 8 editorial that dismissed his bid for the Appropriations slot as a lost cause.

Reps. Thomas Cole, R-Okla., and Dave Reichert, R-Wash., and others are positioning themselves for the seat.

Flake said every sitting GOP member of the Appropriations Committee solicits pork-barrel funding, perpetuating the practice.

“Once you earmark yourself, you have to protect your earmarks — and that means being quiet about everybody else’s, so no matter how innocuous whatever you’re getting might be, you can’t challenge anybody else,” he said.

Flake said he has been making the rounds with members of the Steering Committee to make his case for being named to the Appropriations Committee.

Flake sits on the Foreign Affairs and Natural Resources committees, but would relinquish those for Appropriations, he said. He previously sat on the powerful Judiciary Committee, but was jettisoned as punishment for calling out other members for earmarks.

Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., said he plans to push Flake’s bid, but knows other members laugh at the idea. The culture of earmark spending is just too ingrained, he said.