Udall as ‘anti-earmarking Power Ranger’ is absurd

If you’ve got the sniffles this spring, it might be hay fever.  Or it might be an allergic reaction to politicians trying to rewrite history in hopes of saving their re-election.

Yes, the reinvention of U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Obama, is in full bloom.

After six years in the Senate, Colorado’s senior senator doesn’t have much to show for his efforts — not much he can pin a re-election to, at least.  Udall has been a dutiful supporter of President Obama, supporting the president’s position dutifully 99 percent of the time.

Members of the old Soviet politburo, under the threat of the gulag, didn’t even support their communist leader 99 percent of the time.  That’s some serious fidelity on Udall’s part.

The trouble is, the president’s agenda isn’t too popular these days.

According to a May PPP poll, 43 percent of Coloradans give the president’s job-handling a thumbs up; more than 50 percent give his job performance a different finger.

By every poll or other plausible metric of popularity (except maybe global Facebook likes), the president’s popularity is badly under water, and this is a real problem for Mr. 99 Percent, Mark Udall.

But say what you will about candidates for high political office, they aren’t quitters.  Rather than fess up to a long record of unflinching Obama boosterism, Team Udall is busy rewriting history.

In early May, the first of many of these revisionist ploys unearthed itself. The storyline: Mark Udall is a fearless opponent of congressional earmarks.

The Denver Post editorial page, the election-year stooge for Democratic statewide candidates since at least as long as I’ve been able to read, heralded Udall’s bold leadership.

“Sens. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla. — longtime opponents of earmarks — are circulating a letter urging their colleagues to stand fast against the practice. Congress can “represent the interests of our constituents without using earmarks,” they insist.

Though I agree with the objective, the first appearance of this anti-earmarking freedom march nearly made me choke on my morning Kona blend.

I was a press secretary in a congressional office back when Congress was little more than a factory for earmarks.  It was the era of Delay and Daschle. For chasers of the lucrative earmark, life was oh-so-good.

Offices had a gaggle of legislative assistants, the better part of whose day was spent taking lobbyist meetings, developing strategies and generally focusing on how to secure earmarks for roads and bridges, hospitals and colleges, roofing projects for federal buildings and federal land purchases.

In all, billions and billions (and billions and billions and billions) of dollars were doled out in special congressional appropriations each year.

Jack Abramoff went to jail. Numerous incumbent congressmen were booted from office.  You remember the saga.

And through it all, no one was a more adept at securing congressional earmarks than a certain congressman from Boulder by the name of Mark Udall.

Going all the way back to 1999, Udall pursued earmarks for any multitude of constituencies.

At one point, Udall made headlines for trying to land a $12 million earmark to build a wildlife bridge over Interstate 70.  At the time, environmentalists called Interstate 70 the “Berlin Wall of Colorado wildlife,” and Udall — the Ronald Reagan of Colorado wildlide, I guess — chased earmarks to tear down that wall, or at least make it passable for the Elks Club.

In 2006, Udall landed a $400,000 earmark to study and design the I-70 wildlife bridge.

No, not making this up.

Udall’s wildlife bridge might be his most outlandish earmark, but there were hundreds and hundreds more.

Just last week, Udall and other members of the Colorado delegation celebrated the grand opening of another earmark-funded project, the renovation of Denver’s Union Station.  The Denver Post had a great picture of Udall cutting the ribbon, but neglected to mention the earmark.

As recently as 2009, Udall voted against an amendment that would “prohibit taxpayer dollars from being earmarked to 14 clients of a lobbying firm under Federal investigation for making campaign donations in exchange for political favors for the group’s clients.”

You get the idea – this fairytale of Udall as anti-earmarking Imperial Storm Trooper is absurd.

A senator is, of course, free to change his mind, just as we all are entitled to do.  But even Jack Abramoff over in Cell Block D now admits that all of that earmarking was a bad idea.

Udall as anti-earmarking Power Ranger?

Excuse me while I, while I….  gasundheit!

Josh Penry is a former minority leader in the Colorado Senate. He is a graduate of Grand Junction High School and Mesa State College.


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