Jeff Flake, U.S. Senate Candidate, Says He's Opposed to Budget Earmarks, But Looked the Other Way When it was Politically Convenient

Categories: Election 2012

Congressman Jeff Flake, who is running for U.S. Senate against former U.S. Surgeon General Rich Carmona, says he doesn't like earmarks, which some call "pork barrel spending."

He certainly has earned a reputation for fighting against federal funding for specific projects attached to unrelated bills and routinely highlighting what he thought qualified as the egregious earmark of the week.

And it is Flake's well-known distaste for pork that his campaign team now uses to explain why he voted against some proposed laws aimed at benefiting veterans.

But his critic note that Flake has voted in favor of measure that have so-called "pork" attached to them, and has looked the other way when earmarked dollars were being funneled into his congressional district by other members of Congress.

Carmona, who served as a Special Forces soldier in Vietnam, released a list of more than a dozen anti-veteran votes cast by Flake. And a national veteran's group,, followed up with a campaign ad slamming Flake for his half-hearted support of veterans.

Watch it at the end of this blog.
Flake, who has never served in the military, voted against measures that made education assistance available for individuals who served at least three years in the military, provided $1,500 bonuses for service men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan and ensured veterans' access to affordable housing.

Andrew Wilder, communications director for Flake's campaign, still hasn't return calls.

Flake's campaign has told other media outlets that his opposition was to the earmarks, not veterans support, but his detractors are quick to point out that the longtime Congressman has found ways to vote for measures with earmarks when it's politically expedient.

Take the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 -- which most people know as the Bush Tax Cuts.

Flake voted in favor of that measure, which critics say disproportionately benefited the wealthy and corporations, even though it included $10 billion in funding assistance for state and local governments, and another $10 billion for medicaid (health insurance for the poor).

State Representative Ruben Gallego, a former Marine and Iraq veteran, says such votes demonstrate Flake can stray from being purist, and then revert back to his political ideologies when it's convenient.

Retired Army General Wesley Clark, chairman of VoteVets advisory board, said in a recent statement:

"When you are one of only twelve House members out of over 400 to oppose a new GI Bill for our troops and one of only three to oppose job training for veterans, you are extremely far out of the mainstream."

Flake's campaign countered the attack by releasing a list of more than 80 examples of times he voted in favor of veterans, and came up with a campaign ad featuring a veteran who Flake helped during his time in Congress.

Critics of Flake go further, noting that he wasn't pitching a fit when his own constituents in Arizona's Sixth Congressional District sought help to obtain federal funding from other Arizona congressman.

Former Congressman Harry Mitchell was one of them.

In 2007, the East Valley Tribune reported that Mitchell has been a strong advocate for investment in the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and secured $1.75 million in federal funding to improve taxiways at airport.

The airport is in the heart of Flake's congressional district.

Flake wouldn't necessarily vote in favor of the measures, but he also wouldn't rally against them on the House floor as he did for other earmarks. It's was why he became known as the "Vote-No-But-Get-The-Dough" guy.

"It was almost like we were representing two districts," says Robbie Sherwood, who was Mitchell's district director at the time. "They wouldn't ask Flake for help because they knew he wouldn't help them."

The practice of using earmarks, which make up less than 1 percent of the federal budget, have since been halted. In March 2010, the House of Representatives banned earmarks to for-profit companies. The following year, the House and the Senate adopted a two-year moratorium on earmarks.

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In case readers are confused about "pork", let me point out a local instance of pork being carried out right before your very eyes:  The decision to base the F-35 program at Luke Air Force Base. That's pork politics at its best, and if Senators McCain and (maybe) Senator Flake were able to get the F-35 program here, they would crow and crow and crow.  However, it's pork, aka, bringing home the bacon.  Anytime a politician uses his influence to get Federal projects directed to his district, it's pork.  Usually, this kind of thing is done by "logrolling", i.e., you help me get this project in my district, I'll support your project.  (Which is how the "Bridge to Nowhere" came to be.)  Flake's war on "pork" is really rather shallow and pathetic.


I worked in the Federal Government in DC for 30+ years in an agency that had to deal with "earmarks".  There is a difference between "pork" which is attached to unrelated bills and the typical "earmark."  Many appropriations include funds to be granted to local institutions or colleges, usually through competition.  The typical "earmark" simply says that some of those funds will be used in a particular fashion or for a specific organization, rather than being part of a competition or formula allocation.  Eliminating these "earmarks" saves the taxpayer nothing; the funds will be part of the competition or formula allocation.  We didn't like earmarks, because it was difficult to do "due diligence" as to whether the earmark grantee was a responsible organization and whether the grantee understood that the funds had to be spent within our regulations.  In other words, Jeff Flake is not really telling the truth.  When I was in DC, we considered Flake to be something of a joke.  He would put out press releases highlighting some "ridiculous" project that would turn out to be cutting edge research.  In other words, he is a layman who does not understand research projects.


As to the Jeff Flake ad about helping that young woman who is an ex-GI, I recognize a typical constituent service situation.  Of course Flake's district staff helped her; that's their job.  So there is no contradiction between Flake's lack of support for veterans services in general and his district staff helping a young woman get a Federal benefit.  Again speaking as an ex-Fed, I can tell you that gong through a Congressman's office to get help dealing with the Federal Government is the very best way, normally, to go.  Federal agencies closely monitor this kind of congressional request, to ensure that the Member's concerns are dealt with timely.

Brentgregory Crowell
Brentgregory Crowell

for those who oppose men and women that serve our country you all don't have any say so what we deserve or don't deserve let you serve 1 moment of combat the nightmares and see what you think of that, we all that had served deserve our red white and blue cards and the education and benefits that we had soul hard earned. that's all be thankful for the ones that has served.

David Howard
David Howard

We should Earmark all politicians who support wars so that they can go themselves, with our support of course lol, and then pass legislation due to their Military Experience... Enlist all politicians on the Military!!!!!


Keep in mind that Obama is all about handing out more than just free Earmarks, so why all the fuss.  isn't that what you want or only if they benefit you?.


Carmona's newest ad where he attempts to confuse boters into thinking Kyl and McCAin endorse his Senate run is reminiscent of Russel Pearce's 'list' of supporters that were full of people who weren't supporting his most recent campaigns.


Carmona=Russell Pearce


Carmona 'quit' as Surgeon General amid fiscal irresponsibility as an attempt to save face...Pearce's exit from the DMV was similiar.


Carmona=Russell Pearce


Looks like Flaky is as chameleon like as Mittens. Flake isn't man enough to shine Carmona's boots


Did Jeffy the Flake offer up his own amendments or bills to support the good things of the bill that he wanted to veto? NOOO. Because he's biggest worry is how get a tan on a beach on taxpayer's money. But he needs a tan to look good on TV!!

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