WASHINGTON — One group helping fan the flames of national anti-earmark sentiment is Taxpayers Against Earmarks, started by Nebraskan Joe Ricketts, founder and former CEO of what is now TD Ameritrade.
“We did it!” the group’s website shouted in celebration after Senate Republicans adopted an earmark moratorium.
Ricketts’ group met with members of the House and Senate on the subject of earmarks and ran ads urging people to contact their elected officials about earmarks.
“We were among the groups that fought a good fight and won,” Brian Baker, the group’s president, told The World-Herald.
Through its Political Action Committee, the Ending Spending Fund, the group also targeted various earmark-seeking incumbents in the Nov. 2 election. The PAC funded independent advertisements highlighting earmarks.
The group spent $186,334 opposing Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., chairman of the House Budget Committee, and $71,334 opposing Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, according to Federal Election Commission records. Spratt and Edwards both lost their re-election bids.
The group also spent $29,900 in support of Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho, who lost his race.
The political action committee spent its largest sum on the Nevada Senate race, shelling out $862,432 in an effort to defeat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Democrat Reid won re-election, though Baker said the group helped inject earmarks as a campaign topic.
At the same time Joe Ricketts’ group pushes to stamp out earmarks and reduce deficit spending at the federal level, the ballclub his family members own, the Chicago Cubs, have unveiled a proposal that would have the State of Illinois floating at least $200 million in bonds to support major renovations at Wrigley Field.
Although not a congressional earmark, the Cubs’ move has prompted questions about potential contradictions between what Joe Ricketts advocates and what some members of his family are seeking.
In a statement, Joe Ricketts said: “My son Tom is the chairman of the Chicago Cubs and together with his siblings on the Cubs’ board of directors, undertakes activities on behalf of the Cubs with our family’s complete support and blessing.”
Baker said Taxpayers Against Earmarks is focused on wasteful spending at the federal level and has nothing to do with state and local spending decisions.
“It’s sort of inaccurate to infer that the fight against earmarks and against this type of spending at the federal level relates at all to a state-level economic development project,” he said.
Cubs front man Tom Ricketts was asked on Chicago television station WTTW about the difference between the team’s proposal and the federal borrowing his father opposes.
“An earmark is obviously something that’s added to a federal bill that directs resources to a specific region or a specific district of a congressman that never sees the light of day and never has any type of public debate,” he said.
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