Washington (CNN) – Democratic Party officials are blasting out emails accusing the Senate's second ranking Republican of backtracking on his pledge not to seek earmarks, but a closer look by CNN shows their accusations appear unfounded.
At issue – a $200 million project to provide drinking water for an Indian tribe in Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl's home state of Arizona.
Democrats say Kyl violated his GOP caucus' newly-pledged ban on earmarks by inserting funds into legislation last week, in order to settle a decades-old land dispute between the White Mountain Apache Tribe and the federal government.
Democrats were seizing on a report from the Associated Press which said Kyl slipped the money into a larger settlement for black farmers and American Indians.
"Jon Kyl's hypocrisy knows no bounds. It only took three short days for politician Jon Kyl to hypocritically break his no-earmarks pledge by 'slipping' a $200 million earmark into a larger bill," said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Press Secretary Deirdre Murphy.
A spokesman for Kyl is defending his support for the "White Mountain Apache Tribe Water Rights Quantification Act of 2010," as it is officially known, saying it has been a long-negotiated deal between federal agencies and the tribe that has the backing of President Barack Obama.
"What is not accurate is to call the United States government's settlement of a claim against it an earmark," said Kyl spokesman Andrew Wilder.
"Saying we 'slipped' it into the package is nonsense designed to insinuate something untoward. Kyl first introduced the settlement on behalf of the parties in 2008 and has worked to get it through ever since. But even though it passed with unanimous support Friday, some wish to play political games with it," Wilder said
In fact, some in the Obama administration agree with Kyl.
Dan DuBray, a spokesman for the Bureau of Reclamation, part of the Interior Department, says the $200 million was part of a settlement they negotiated with the tribe, and that everyone agreed it was a good idea to pair it with the black farmers' legislation, because by law settlements such as this must be approved by Congress.
"We don't see it as an earmark at all," said Dan DuBray.
Also included in the 272-page legislation are settlements for other Native American groups outside Kyl's state of Arizona: Montana's Crow Tribe and New Mexico's Taos Pueblo and Pojoaque River Basin communities. Democrats Max Baucus (Montana) and Jeff Bingaman (New Mexico) championed funding for those projects.
Anti-earmark crusaders also say the Democrats' claim falls short.
"There's no way Congress (Republican or Democrat) would consider this an official earmark," said Steve Ellis, spokesman for the anti-earmark group Taxpayers for Common Sense, in an email to CNN. "This does deal with a pay me now or pay me later settlement issue, so Uncle Sam was going to be coming up with the cash whether or not Sen. Kyl got it in."
The Democratic National Committee, which insists Kyl submitted an earmark, believes the discrepancy comes down to how one defines the term.
A 2007 bill sponsored by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), one of the most ardent earmark foes in Congress, defines an earmark as any spending outside "a statutory or administrative formula-driven" process. Kyl's funding for the Apache Tribe's program was negotiated by the executive branch and supported by federal statute.
If approved by the House of Representatives, the law would give the White Mountain Apache water rights to thousand of acres and provide funding for a dam and reservoir.
I guess by the Democrats logic, 2 of their own also attached earmarks to the bill. But that must be okay, since they never took a pledge against them in the first place. This just shows the Democrats desperation.
I never thought I'd find myself in agreement with Jon "let them eat cake" Kyl, but this only shows how ridiculous banning earmarks is. It's a phoney way for Repubs to say they're fiscally conservative. John McCain kept spouting this crap during the 2008 election. It was phoney then and it's phoney now.
Kyl should be impeached for making the world less secure by trashing START. He is the lowest form of paid for republican bureaucracy. Slime, thy name is Kyl.
It is this kind of nonsense coming from many Democrats that is causing them to lose credibility with the American voter.It will be interesting to see how many of these same people attacking Senator Kyl will actually vote to get rid of earmarks.And it is to CNN's credit that they didn't blindly accept these charges without checking the facts.Thank you CNN.
Why would something like this have to be included in another bill anyway? Shouldn't the USA government be proud to pay a part of their restitution to the native people of the Western Hemisphere?
As for Republicans keeping their word on earmark banning – didn't Republicans run the number of earmarks up from 900 or so the year before they took over Congress in 1994 to over 13,000 in 2005? Some things never change.
Funny, I always thought an earmark was a federal appropriation that was targeted to a specific congressional district. Seems to me this does fit the description but I guess it's only an earmark if the Republicans say it is. The truth is that unles the earmark is highly inefficient in that it doesn't benefit the American people in the best way (like the bridge to nowhere) there is going to be money circulating back into the populace which will then be spent or invested. This generally generates jobs and taxable revenue so this whole "No Earmarks" stand is all smoke and mirrors anyways. I know states like West Virginia would still be economically disadvantaged had not earmarks been used to move government jobs to an area that had only mining as a basis for it's economy.
It is officially only pork if only one senator sponsors it. So keep it quiet, find one other sucker to sponsor it, and suddenly you are clean!
Watch dozens more of these 'not pork' projects go through Congress in the coming two years. They won't be porking up the budget...
And also watch how the 'Citizens against government waste' will keep turning a blind eye to these, because according to them only democratic spening is wasteful.
The Indians will never see a dime and Kyl knows this because he like so many others have stolen everything they possibly can from the American Indians. Live in Arizona, visit the reservations, talk to the American Indians as I have, this isn't about "earmarks" it's about stealing from the Indians again. Kyl is no better than Jack Abramhof whose in prision for stealing from the Indians.
This is ironic coming from the 2010 Democratic National Committee. I suppose they have remade themselves as fiscal conservatives?!?! Good luck with that...
Not a true earmark. There are any number of long running issues with Native American tribes, and frankly, they predate the black farmer issue, by a bunch. Time for Native peoples to get at least as good a treatment, as the black community.
It isn't nonsense, in my opinion, but it does show the absurdity of trying to ban all earmarks.
I'm a Democrat and live in Arizona and normally do not support Senator Kyl, but come on. I find that his holding up the STARK Treaty to be a very dangerous game he seems to be playing with our national security, but this is not an earmark.
What do Iran, North Korea and Sen. Kyle have in common? They all are against the Start Treaty.
Say it ain't so, the Republicans doing the opposite of what they are saying, hahahahahaha...
NO MORE EARMARKS PERIOD.
LET THE RED STATES STARVE TO DEATH without help from the blue states...
..,maybe Texas (only red state with a viable economy, which has more than peaches or cotton to sell) will give those red states a hand, hahahahahahahahaah, yeah right ;)
This banning of earmarks idea is simply stupid. There is no other way to put it.
1. Earmarks are .5% of Federal debt.
2. Earmarks should not be demonized as the Republicans have attempted do. They are responsible for infrastructure projects that are actually needed. Also many other items that positively effect the economy.
Of course the accusations are unfounded. Lying is what the democrat liberal party does. They do it well, they have had more practice than any group. Democrat liberals are scumbags and never forget the president of this country is a lying, corrupt democrat liberal.
So, how does it feel to be on he receiving end of politcal games? I guess when it's perfected to the degree of Lee Atwater, Karl Rove or the conservative talk radio personalities it's not really a game.
CNN don't let this turkey Kyl off the hook. Sen. Kyl is putingt the safety of our nation along with other countries at risk with delaying The Start Treaty. Kyl has been in washington to long and think the Tea Party are a joke, that's why he put in his $200 million EarMarks.
The Tea Party is not even seated yet. This earmarking should be no surprise coming from the old Democrat/RINO dominated Senate.
Dems seems petty on this one. But the repugs got to learn to stop over demonizing programs so much then want to take advantage of the same Obama big government programs "as the claims" then turn around want to utilize it under a different banner. These people are the masters of hiprosity. They will want something and as soon as the people object they'll turn it around and jump on the side of the people leaving the dems holding the bag criticizing and demonizing the he'll out of what the situation is. Look at the recent tsa problems. Remember how the repugs demonize the dems with the underwear bomber last christmas, saying how the dems couldn't keep the country safe and throwing every thing and the kitchen sink on them. One year later when some nut job wanted some exposure took a camera to the airport and recorded a incident with the tsa. The repugs and baggers saw that the people were getting mad about the pat downs and tried to stirr up as much crap to get the dems from doing their jobs to protect the people and the country. This party does not give a dam about the people and their safety, it's all about politics for them and trying to score points with these ignorant emotional people who cannot think rational to save even their own selves much less others.