Something new to further complicate the life of Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen: there are reports today that the House Rules Committee will consider restoring earmarks, a now-abolished system that for decades allowed Congressmen to designate federal funds for home-state projects.
As Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Frelinghuysen would find himself in the middle of what used to be called pork-barrel politics. He has supported a $900 million earmark for a new trans-Hudson crossing, but so far has been unable to obtain the funding despite his powerful post. For that, Citizens Against Government Waste named Frelinghuysen as their Porker of the Month last September.
Earmarks have caused problems for Frelinghuysen in the past. In 2009, he was criticized for requesting $40 million worth of earmarks for a dozen companies at the request of a lobbyist who was his chief of staff and is now one of his fundraisers. He also raised more than $29,000 from a Washington lobbying firm amidst allegations that they funneled campaign contributions through fake donors. Frelinghuysen was credited with $2.5 million in solo earmarks and another $4.8 million in assisted earmarks for the now-defunct The PMA Group.
The House banned earmarks in 2011, shortly after Republicans regained their majority. Over the last year, some House members have sought a return to that practice, with added controls. In 2014, Frelinghuysen told CNBC: “I don’t think people understand how we are responsible managers of federal income dollars. We need to do a better job of communicating that and we are doing a better job of that and leadership is letting us.”
Frelinghuysen is facing the first competitive general election of his 44-year political career this fall.