I Want Your Money for the Virgin Islands—How Much is Not Your Business
Donna Christensen (D) is the delegate to the House of Representatives from the Virgin Islands. A “delegate” is a is a non-voting member of the House elected from a U.S. territory (and the District of Columbia).
Delegates are paid like regular members of Congress, they serve on committees, and they have many of the same privileges as members of the House. They can also request earmarks.
Christensen has requested earmarks in this year’s spending bills, but she has done a particularly bad job of disclosing her earmark requests. Her disclosure is a PDF scan of a stack of letters that she sent over to appropriators asking for money. (That’s hard to collect data from for mapping and such.) But the topper is: She doesn’t say how much money she’s requesting!
Can you believe that an earmark request disclosure would not include the amounts requested? It’s a way of doing disclosure in form but not in substance.
But failing to fully disclose apparently doesn’t have any consequences. The House Appropriations Committee is planning to ship some heapin’ helpings of taxpayer cash to the Virgin Islands at Christensen’s behest.
This document shows (on page eighteen) that Christensen is slated to get a half-million dollars in the Commerce-Justice-State spending bill. And $3.75 million is planned (page eight) for Christensen’s territory in the Interior and Environment bill. Another million is heading for the Virgin Islands (page fifteen) in the Transportation spending bill.
So a delegate can get over $5,000,000 sent to her district even if she flaunts transparency. Nice work, isn’t it?
Well, if a member of Congress or delegate can’t take the time to disclose her earmark requests in full, I don’t know that taxpayers should take the time to send their money.
If you want to say your piece about this, your starting point is always to call your representative. During regular business hours, dial the congressional switchboard at (202) 2245-3121 and ask for his or her office. Be nice.
There are a couple of other folks you can call. The number for the House Appropriations Committee is (202) 225-2771. Be nice when you call them, too. Ask who to talk to about an earmark that you believe should not be funded. It might take some effort to find the right person, but patiently tell him or her that Christensen should not get earmarks unless she discloses the dollar amount of all her earmark requests.
You could also call the chairmen of the subcommittees that are giving Christensen these funds. Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) is the chairman of the Commerce-Justice-State spending subcommittee. (If you’ve got friends in West Virginia, it makes more sense for them to call him.) Jim Moran (D-VA) is the chairman of the Interior and Environment spending subcommittee. (Best to have his constituents contact him, too.) And Transportation spending is overseen by John Olver (D) from Massachusetts. (Got any Massachusetts friends?)
If the right constituents ask why the delegate from Virgin Islands gets paid despite resisting transparency, we might get some answers. How much money Donna Christensen requested to go to the Virgin Islands is our business.