Editorial: Candidates should promise to end earmarks

Everybody loves to hate earmarks. Don’t they?

Nevada Democratic Congresswoman Jacky Rosen, who is running for the Senate in a bid to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Dean Heller, recently introduced legislation to ban earmarks.

Earmarks are those special interest spending bills that get attached to unrelated bills in Washington by Congress critters hoping to bring home the bacon in the form of bridges to nowhere, freeway intersections, veterans homes in tiny hamlets without enough vets to fill the beds and the like.

“Congress made the right decision when it ended the practice of earmarks,” said Rep. Rosen in a press release. “Earmarks represent a return to political favoritism, unethical practices, and wasteful government spending. Our constituents deserve better and I believe that compromise, not pork barrel projects, is how we cut through partisan gridlock. I’ll continue working to put Nevada families first by reaching across the aisle to find issues that both Democrats and Republicans agree on, and not through the politics of bribery that this administration is looking to embrace.”

Heller agrees. In fact he called for ending earmarks back in 2010, though he has not been averse to using them on occasion since then.

“The earmark process has become a symbol of the glut in our nation’s Capitol,” Heller said in a statement those eight years ago. “Congress must rein in reckless spending. This is why I will not request earmarks for the following fiscal year, and I call on all the members of the Nevada delegation to join me in this effort.”

So, not a campaign issue then, since they both agree, right? Just a matter of who will fight harder on this principled stance.

Will Rosen pay heed to the person who hand picked her to run for the House two years ago and for the Senate this year – former Sen. Harry Reid?

During his final year in the Senate Reid proudly labeled himself an earmarks user and passionately called for bringing them back, “I am one of the kings of earmarks. I think it was a terrible idea, a disservice to America to come up with this stupid idea, stupid idea to stop congressional directed spending – of course we should be doing it.”

According to press accounts at the time, Reid went on to say that he’s “never apologized to anybody” for supporting the earmark practice. “I go home and I boast about earmarks, and that’s what everybody should do. It’s a way we get things done around here. It’s the way it’s been done for centuries. And all of a sudden somebody comes up with the bright idea that all the government agencies and the White House can do it better than we can? They can’t. We have a constitutional obligation to do congressional-directed spending.”

But Heller can’t hang his hat on that link to Rosen, because the head of his own party, President Donald Trump recently declared, “Our system lends itself to not getting things done, and I hear so much about earmarks — the old earmark system — how there was a great friendliness when you had earmarks. But of course, they had other problems with earmarks. But maybe all of you should start thinking about going back to a form of earmarks.”

As for Heller’s Republican primary opponent Danny Tarkanian, who has tried to tie himself closer to Trump than Heller, he too long ago declared his opposition to earmarks.

Back in 2010, when he first ran for the Senate, Tarkanian said he would not seek earmarks for Nevada if elected and would work to wean Congress from what he called wasteful pork-barrel spending.

“I would not take earmarks and I would fight for all states not to get earmarks. I would not propose earmarks on our behalf. You have to lead by example,” Tarkanian told reporters then.

“I firmly believe and I will stake my campaign on it that the people of Nevada do not want this wasteful spending,” Tarkanian said. “They want the money in their pockets.”

We hereby encourage Heller, Tarkanian and Rosen to stick to the principles they have declared and campaign on the promise of ending the corrupting you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours practice. It results in a waste of tax dollars.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.


How will enthusiasm gap affect Nevada elections in the fall?



Now that the dust has settled from the major party primaries Tuesday, what do the numbers tell us about the outcomes in November in a few of the key Nevada races?

There does seem to be an enthusiasm gap between the Republicans and Democrats according to the turnout statewide.

Cortez Masto

If you just look at the raw numbers in the U.S. Senate race, you’d think they bode well for Democrat


nominee Catherine Cortez Masto who garnered 82,000 ballots, compared to Republican nominee Joe Heck’s 74,500. But Heck faced more opponents, and, contrasting with the voter registration rolls, 13,000 more Republicans voted in that race than Democrats, even though Democrats outnumber Republicans in Nevada by 48,000.

Statewide voter registration breaks down to 39 percent Democrat, 35 percent Republican and all other parties and independents account for 26 percent.

It is hard to say at this time how the lack of enthusiasm for either major party presidential candidate will affect turnout in November.


The story is similar in the closely watched 3rd Congressional District race, which is an open seat because


incumbent Heck is running for the Senate. On the Democrat ticket, Jacky Rosen raked in 14,000 votes to win the nomination, compared to Republican nominee Danny Tarkanian’s 9,000 votes, besting state Sen. Michael Roberson of $1.5 billion tax hiking fame.

CD3 is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans with each having 37 percent of the registered voters and all others with 26 percent. Yet 5,000 more Republicans voted Tuesday than Democrats in the district.


It is an entirely different story in the 4th Congressional District race in which Republican Cresent Hardy is serving


his first term and easily won the party nomination over two candidates whose campaigns failed to register a blip on the radar. Hardy collected 18,600 votes, compared to Democrat nominee Ruben Kihuen’s 12,200, but he faced seven opponents who put up vigorous campaign efforts.

The registration in that district leans heavily Democratic — 42 percent Democrat, 33 percent Republican and 25 percent all others. The district covers northern Clark County as well as southern Lyon County and all of White Pine, Nye, Mineral, Esmeralda, and Lincoln counties. Clark is heavily Democratic, while the rurals lean Republican.

In fact, 5,000 more Democrats voted Tuesday than Republicans in that district, but there wasn’t much of a choice for Republicans. The rurals are credited with putting Hardy over the top in the election two years ago.

Another factor is that Cortez Masto, Kihuen and Rosen are all backed by retiring Sen. Harry Reid and are likely to garner union support, which will drive turnout in November. Whether Reid’s backing is a buoy or a millstone is an open question.

Will Harry Reid’s support help or hurt candidates?


Newspaper column: Harry’s criticism of Tarkanian could apply to a majority of Nevada homeowners

“His judgment was so bad that he gambled and lost his family’s entire nest egg because he failed to do his homework,” Sen. Harry Reid said of 4th Congressional District Republican candidate Danny Tarkanian during a conference call earlier this month. “It raises a question about whether he has the common sense necessary to serve in the House.”

Tarkanian is fighting a $17 million court judgment over a California real estate deal that went sour. He is left holding the bag because everyone else involved has filed for bankruptcy. Reid said it would be “kind of embarrassing” to elect someone who made such a bad deal.

In 2009, Danny Tarkanian holds his newborn son Jerry Jr., already decked out in the appropriate political garb.

That is the topic of this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times, in which I point out to the frequently vituperative Harry that what he is saying about Tarkanian lacking common sense applies to 67 percent of Nevada homeowners who gambled the family nest egg on buying a house that is now underwater.

Perhaps they don’t have enough common sense to be allowed to vote. After all, they elected him and voted by a wide margin for Obama.

Harry should look in the mirror before criticizing someone’s real estate investments.

Reid has seen his net worth drop $800,000 to a mere $2.6 million — mostly because a 160-acre tract he owns in Bullhead City went from a value of $1 million to $5 million in 2010 down to $250,000 to $500,000, according to his most recent financial disclosure statement, though that land did increase in value shortly after he earmarked $18 million in 2005 to build a bridge over the Colorado River nearby. Oops, ran out of earmarks with our money?

Perhaps the voters of Nevada should be kind of embarrassed that since Reid became majority leader in 2006 the net worth of Americans has fallen 40 percent on average.