This follow-up story and our original article have been updated with a quote from Dino Rossi's current spokeswoman Mary Lane:
"Dino's problem is with the sketchy way earmarks are done—attached to any given bill no matter what the underlying legislation is, and done in a backroom-deal way.  and then you end up with a giant monster-bill with all these earmarks attached, and it has to be voted up or down and the president has to either sign it or veto it.

How about making congress—or at least the relevant committee -- vote on each of these earmarks in an open way?  if they're worthwhile, they'll pass.  if they don't stand up to scrutiny, they won't.  with more transparency and accountability in the way congress spends our money, we can control our budgets and cut out some of the senseless wasteful spending.  maybe if more scrutiny were built into the system, for example, taxypers wouldn't have shelled out $4.5 mil for a boat no one wants."

Today's original post:

There are a few things I didn't manage to get into yesterday's article about Dino Rossi's campaign play to make earmarks an issue for U.S. Sen. Patty Murray.

1. Steve Ellis, the spokesman for Taxpayers for Common Sense (a group that monitors earmark spending), pointed out another problem with the earmark system—which, as he said in our report yesterday, prioritizes the political muscle of politicians over the merits of particular programs.

Elaborating on that point, Ellis also noted that the earmark system means that places like Kitsap, Grays Harbor, Clallam, Jefferson and Mason Counties, which are represented by powerful committee chairs like Rep. Norm Dicks (D-6) get used to a disproportionate level of federal money.

Dicks and Murray are "not always going to be there," Ellis said, arguing that the earmark system creates an artificial spending landscape that can both misrepresent government priorities and leave a spoiled district in for a surprise when they elect a new, less powerful, Congressional representative.

Taxpayers for Common Sense wants government spending to be based on a more transparent and objective set of standards than tenure (Dicks first took office in 1977) and clout. Ellis also noted that Sen. Murray is the chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation.

While Ellis is—like Rossi—a critic of the earmark system, I'm not sure his example works in Rossi's favor.

2. Ellis, as we noted in yesterday's report, criticized the earmark system as "a petri dish for corruption." His point: It creates a pay-to-play system where hefty donors sidle up to powerful legislators—which is basically a recipe for bribery. And while we linked to a report on one contributor scandal about military contractor GMA (one of Dicks' big donors), we should have also linked this 2007 investigative report by the Seattle Times that spotlights some questionable earmarking by Sen. Murray.
This can result in earmarks that are wasteful or potentially harmful.

For example, Murray directed $6 million to a Redmond company for high-tech battle gear that the Army had rejected as flawed for its armored-vehicle Stryker Brigade.

3. Finally, just yesterday, The Bellevue Reporter had this article on Sen. Murray and earmarks—reporting that a group of Eastside businesses and political leaders are trying to take advantage of her earmark prowess to land federal dollars for the transit-friendly Bel-Red Corridor project. Which brings us right back to our argument from yesterday—you decide for yourself if earmarks are bad. Meanwhile, we'll watch for a spike in Bellevue names on Murray's contributor list.