AP Word Games: 'Pork' and 'Earmarks' Transformed Into 'Local Projects'

December 22nd, 2009 12:07 PM

In connection with the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending monstrosity signed into law last week, an unbylined AP report on December 16 told us the following (bolds are mine throughout this post):

Most Republicans opposed the bill, citing runaway federal spending. They also pointed to an estimated $3.9 billion for more than 5,000 local projects sought by lawmakers from both parties.

The AP writer involved did something even the worst football quarterback couldn't pull off, namely committing two incompletions in one attempted sentence.

First, though there's always the question of genuine sincerity when it comes to a Democrat speaking out against spending, three Democratic senators did make strong statements against the bill, specifically Evan Bayh of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. In a December 14 item at Politico, which seems to be the place where stories noticed by the establishment media that should go further instead go to die (while the rest of the press says, "See, 'we' covered it. It's at Politico, so the rest of us can leave it alone"), Bayh was quoted as saying that "are totally out of touch with the sacrifices middle-class Americans are making."

Second, where did the term "local projects" come from? It seems to be "creative" formulation to facilitate moving away from using the perfectly fine traditional labels of "earmarks" and "pork."

The AP seemed to fumble around a bit before settling on a preferred term it can employ to avoid using those two suddenly dreaded words.

Blogger Doug Ross first noted the AP's new evasiveness, citing Andrew Taylor's December 12 report on the spending bill's progress. Taylor tailored his terminology thusly:

(The bill) wraps together six individual spending bills and also contains more than 5,000 back-home projects sought by lawmakers in both parties.

How innocuous.

A day later, in a brief unbylined summary of the bill's provisions, the AP betrayed its squeamishness about using the proper wording:

- $3.9 billion for more than 5,000 "earmarks," or home-state projects sought by lawmakers.

Hey guys, they really are called "earmarks." There's no need for scare quotes.

On December 14, AP reporter Jim Abrams, in an item about the Senate's passage of the bill, then modified Taylor's "back-home projects" term further to make it appear even more benign:

Republicans decried what they called out-of control spending and pointed to an estimated $3.9 billion in the bill for more than 5,000 local projects sought by individual lawmakers from both parties.

Based on the December 16 AP item noted at the beginning of this post, it looks like the wire service has settled on "local projects" as the term of choice. Since AP dispatches are a primary driver of most of the news you see, hear, or read, its apparently newly-honed terminology will likely work to ensure that "pork" and "earmarks" disappear from most news reports -- at least while Democrats control Washington. After all, what kind of meanie could oppose something as sweet and innocent as a local "project"?

One element of the various AP reports is sadly true, according to a watchdog group spokesperson I spoke to this morning. He hasn't run the numbers yet, but he has no reason to believe based on what he's seen and work they've done in the past to believe that the allocation of the "5,000 local projects sought by lawmakers from both parties" is anything other than the traditional roughly 60% going to the party in power and 40% to the minority party.

Clearly, almost nobody in Washington gets it, including the President, whose press secretary claimed that 5,000 earmarks represents "progress." Obama signed the bill, which also gave most federal bureaucracies increases that far exceeded inflation (described by Abrams as "increased budgets for vast areas of the federal government"), despite his January pledge to eliminate earmarks.

Unsurprisingly, no AP report I located referred to Obama's broken post-election promise.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.