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Are Jerry McNerney’s earmarks bad or good?

By Josh Richman
Friday, September 19th, 2008 at 2:30 pm in campaign finance, Dean Andal, Elections, General, Jerry McNerney, U.S. House.

Jon Fleischman, a political consultant and state GOP vice chairman who runs the conservative FlashReport.org blog, has launched a “One Term is Enough” Web site characterizing Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, as “the poster boy for special interest hypocrisy.”

Showcased there now is a piece on how McNerney’s campaign has accepted $9,500 from the EDO Corp. Political Action Committee, and how McNerney brought in a $1 million earmark for EDO “for electronic warfare concept demonstrator for the Littoral Combat Ship.” EDO, which merged last December with ITT Corp., was East Coast-based but has a facility in Morgan Hill, within McNerney’s 11th Congressional District.

“That’s right. McNerney took money from New York-based special interests and then just two days later requested an $800,000 taxpayer funded earmark for the same company,” Fleischman wrote on his Web site, not mentioning the company’s local facility. “McNerney has learned Washington’s special interest ways; he just isn’t very good at hiding it.”

Fleischman, for the record, says he has no affiliation whatsoever with the campaign of Dean Andal, the Republican nominee challenging McNerney in November’s election. “I’m just fired up and I’ve had enough of McNerney trying to posture himself as some sort of moderate centrist when he’s really voting with Nancy Pelosi all the time,” Fleischman told me today.

Well, I’ve found that Pleasanton’s Corrina, Helmuth and Stephanie Meissner – the president; founder/chief technological officer; and CEO, respectively, at Dublin-based Onyx Optics Inc.gave McNerney’s campaign a total of $3,750 in May, while Onyx Optics senior scientist Huai-Chuan Lee of Albany donated $500 in June. McNerney sponsored a $2 million earmark for Onyx Optics “for manufacturing technology development of advanced components for high power solid-state lasers.”

Furthermore, CPU Technology chief scientist Gail Walters has given McNerney $2,500 in this election cycle while vice president Richard Kessinger has given $1,500. Pleasanton-based CPU Technology makes microprocessor-based electronic systems used in defense technology, and with global defense/aerospace giant BAE Systems got a $2 million McNerney-sponsored earmark “for virtual simulation and modernization of (the) Bradley Fighting Vehicle.” CPU Technology got a $47 million contract from BAE in June.

But, as noted in the USA Today article from last December which Fleischman cites:

Money follows power. Political action committees and executives of at least 20 companies that received defense contracts through earmarks shifted their political donations this year from defeated Republican incumbents to their Democratic replacements, a USA TODAY analysis found.

“This is less a partisan issue as it is a power issue,” says Steve Ellis of the non-partisan budget watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense. “Some of these companies, they’re going to support whoever’s got the ability to deliver the goods.”

Indeed, the article notes EDO’s PAC gave $6,000, and I see CPU Technology’s PAC gave $3,500, to McNerney’s Republican predecessor, Richard Pombo of Tracy, in the last election. And in this cycle, EDO’s PAC has given more than $106,000 to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

I guess you could look at it simply as McNerney scoring handouts for moneyed special interests, or you could see it as McNerney bringing federal funds to his district’s appreciative contractors.

“Congressman McNerney was proud to push for major ethics and earmark reform as one of his first acts in Congress,” spokesman Andy Stone told me today. “And he was one of the first members of Congress to release his entire list of project requests for the world to see. The (EDO Corp.) project in question is an important one because it means not only jobs for local residents, but also radar for Navy combat ships.”

McNerney has never made a secret of his earmarks; he announces them each year (2007, 2008). And considering California is a “donor state,” getting back about 79 cents on every dollar it sends to the federal treasury, some East Bay politicians are very proud of whatever money they can bring in for their districts’ businesses and agencies.

Thoughts, anyone?

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