Remember the March announcement by House Democrats banning earmarks aimed at for-profit entities? Not every Democrat seems to be entirely happy with the ban. For example, the most junior Democrat on the powerful House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Michigan Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, posted on her website earmark requests she received from companies, including one that ranked among the top contributors to her last campaign, to show her support for them. But she said that she has not actually requested these earmarks from the Appropriations Committee.
“We put them [the for-profit earmark requests to our office] on our website to show that we support them, but no, we did not submit them” to the Appropriations Committee, said Kilpatrick.
Kilpatrick posted requests for 26 earmarks from what she described as for-profit entities on her website, which listed them beginning in late March. All but one of these earmark requests appears to be connected to military spending, based on the descriptions.
“All for-profit requests submitted to my office are denoted by an asterisk,” her website states.
“I receive funding requests from a variety of organizations. I posted all appropriations requests submitted to my office on my website in accordance with House rules,” she said in a statement to the Center. “It is unfortunate that all requests cannot be funded … My support of initiatives is solely based on their potential impact upon the people of the 13th Congressional District, the state of Michigan, and the United States.”
Kilpatrick’s website notes, for each earmark request posted, “According to this requestor and based on the explanation provided by the requesting organization below, this is a valuable use of taxpayer dollars.”
Members of the House are only required to post earmark requests that they actually submit to the Appropriations Committee for consideration; it is up to the individual member whether to post earmark requests from every entity that contacts the member’s office seeking one. Most members set up their own earmark request vetting procedure, some with greater scrutiny than others, but the decision to make the request to Appropriations is at the member’s discretion.
An Appropriations committee press release in March stated that the committee “will not approve requests for earmarks that are directed to for-profit entities.” Earmark requests approved by the Appropriations Committee will be made known once the legislation containing the earmarks is reported out the relevant subcommittee.
Among the requests sent to Kilpatrick’s office that was posted: $3.5 million for Ann Arbor-based Innovative BioTherapies Inc. It is listed as the intended recipient for funding for “Diabetes Care in the Military.” Kilpatrick’s 27 individual donors in the first three months of 2010 included the chief executive officer and the chief operating officer of BioTherapies, who each contributed $2,400 to the congresswoman on March 22, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Innovative Biotherapies received a $1.6 million earmark for the same purpose last year, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a non-profit that tracks earmarks.
Some of Kilpatrick’s for-profit requestors also seem not to have followed an unwritten rule of earmarking: Members should only seek earmarks for organizations in their congressional district or state.
The one non-defense related earmark request on behalf of a for-profit is from DaVita Inc., based in Washington, D.C. The $7 million earmark request is for addressing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ backlog in assessing kidney dialysis facilities in rural areas, according to Kilpatrick’s website.
DaVita is Kilpatrick’s top contributor this campaign cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Donations from DaVita employees and from its political action committee, or PAC, totaled $8,900 to the lawmaker in 2009 and 2010. The firm was her second-highest contributor in 2007-2008 at $15,600, beaten out only by MGM Mirage, which has a casino in Detroit.
Although it’s flagged on Kilpatrick’s website with an asterisk to indicate it’s a for-profit company, Concurrent Technologies Corp. — another requestor — is actually a non-profit. CTC is based in the Pennsylvania hometown of the late Rep. Jack Murtha, the former chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, and was the beneficiary of numerous earmarks requested by Murtha. The $5 million request is for implementing technology on Army vehicles to improve their survivability.
Because CTC is actually a non-profit, it may have a real shot at getting earmark funding. It was singled out by Rep. Jeff Flake — an earmark critic — as the kind of entity that could get an earmark under the House Democrats’ for-profit earmark ban.