Sticks and stones may break bones, but name-calling will always make headlines.
So when a flack for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called a leading anti-earmark advocate a “partisan hack” yesterday, his comments promptly showed up on Huffington Post, then Politico, then spread across the political blogosphere.
The comment may be the product of frustration. Reid has been fighting to hold an increasingly unpopular line: defending earmarks. The brewing PMA lobbying scandal has cast new doubt on the practice, forcing Reid to scrap publicly over the issue.
Most recently, he had to defend millions in earmarks going to PMA’s clients, despite GOP efforts to strip them from the omnibus spending bill. “Nice try,” he told reporters Tuesday. “There is no lobbying organization that’s earmarked.”
In fact, there have been two, and they were both publicly reported.
They were written into a 2007 spending law: one went to the firm Ervin Technical Associates, which like PMA reportedly has close ties to Rep. John Murtha (D-PA). The other went to lobbying powerhouse Cassidy & Associates. Both were Pentagon contracts, and both were meant for clients of the firms, not the firms themselves. Oops.
One can consider those technical errors or technical truths. What’s undeniable is that we know about those earmarks because of the group Taxpayers for Common Sense, which discovered them. The group has also been a thorn in the side of pro-earmarkers like Reid by calling attention to the PMA scandal, citing it as an example of how earmarking can be abused.
So it’s no surprise that the man Reid’s spokesman called a “partisan hack” was a TCS executive, Steve Ellis. The only surprise, some say, is that the Senate Majority Leader would stoop to attack so small a target as TCS, whose staff work out of a sparely-furnished office blocks from Reid’s stately digs in the Capitol.
Then again, Reid – a wiry former boxer – likely knows not to underestimate those who punch above their weight.