Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Now who's the jackass?
On September 20th, Congressman Buck McKeon, R-California, said this on the floor of the House about the need for earmark reform:

"Taxpayers deserve to know how their money is being spent and who is spending it. It's amazing how the 'culture of excess' can change when the public eye is examining the process, so we need an earmark system that is open, honest and laced with scrutiny. For too long, Democrats have been filtering millions into their districts with little to no public attention."

Tonight, we answer Congressman McKeon's call for transparency in earmark requests, specifically by questioning his call for a Federal taxpayer-supported museum devoted to ... the mule. Of all the earmark, pork-barrel spending stories we've brought you over this past year, this one is has just galloped to the front of the herd.

McKeon wants $50,000 of your money so the town of Bishop, California (pop. 3,575), can explore the possibility of building a mule museum. Of course, you probably already know that Bishop is the self-proclaimed "Mule Capitol of the World," and when the rest of the country is celebrating Memorial Day, the good folks of Bishop are hosting their annual "Mule Days Celebration." McKeon must be so caught up in the spirit of the thing, that he's forgotten that he actually called Democrats wasteful spenders.

Of course we wanted to ask Congressman McKeon some questions about this, and, of course, the congressman who says he wants an "earmark system that is open, honest and laced with scrutiny" wouldn't talk to us. To be precise, his taxpayer-supported press secretary wouldn't even return our calls.

Tonight on "360," we sit down with House Republican Leader John Boehner. He isn't in charge of Congress, but he is supposed to have some control over his fellow Republicans. Does he think $50,000 for a mule museum is a good idea? We'll ask him tonight, but why don't you let us know your thoughts right now.

-- By Drew Griffin, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 3:37 PM ET
  40 Comments
Drew,

No, I didn't know that Bishop was the Mule Capitol of the World. I know Bishop as a picturesque town along one of the most scenic drives in California--down Highway 395 on the eastern side of the Sierras. It has a great bakery that makes awesome sheepherder's bread.

Rather than splitting hairs on the legitimacy of using my tax dollars on a mule museum, I would rather have you question the comment that Democrats have missued the earmark system. And the Republicans haven't? There is enough blame to spread around to either party. Earmarks are a bad practice period. Congress has a dismal approval rating because of bone headed congress members of both parties. You may tell him that for me.
Posted By Charlotte D, Stockton CA : 4:13 PM ET
Drew,

Thank you so much for staying on the earmark story. Mule museum? Personally, I like the Woodstock museum better. Would the mule museum be a showcase, perhaps, for the mule's orifices we've got in congress trying to waste our money?
Or, what do you get when you cross a pig with a mule? Whoops, I forgot, they're sterile. So are the ideas of some of the folks whose paychecks I am paying with my taxes.
Posted By Barbara in Culver City, CA : 4:16 PM ET
Hi Drew,

This made me smile. Hmmmmm I wonder why it is the mule capitol of the world? Now you have me curious! Every town seems to have something special about it. Interesting, even if they don’t get the funding, they now have free advertising for it, millions will know about Bishop, California! So that should make them smile.

:D smiles from G in Canada


“A mule will labor ten years willingly and patiently for you, for the privilege of kicking you once.”
William Faulkner
Posted By Anonymous : 4:36 PM ET
P.S. but Drew....oh dear me....in looking up the info and re-reading your piece.....for those who have lost loved ones.....the timing of “Mule Days Celebration.".....must be hard to take for some...wouldn't that add to some people's pain? wonder why they choose that weekend? - G in Canada
Posted By Anonymous : 5:01 PM ET
I think McKeon should take his own advice when it comes to wasting the tax payers dollars. Hello remember your big talk?

His press secretary evidently needs to be fired if he can't return a phone call to inform the people who provide him a paycheck, this is something like above the law but legal and Americans are fed up, enough is enough.
Take these monies out of their salaries! We the hard working American people are tired of paying for waste!!!!
Posted By Mick Rispoli California : 5:10 PM ET
Surely you have learned something from the last 7 years?

Did you really expect a member of the Republican Party to be transparent with anything? The only thing that shocks me about this is that a Republican would actually sponsor a museum, a collection that exists solely to educate (regardless of the topic).
Posted By Anonymous : 5:12 PM ET
Really? I have an idea, how about we take that money and spend it on our large airports that are in need of repair or schools that are falling apart? Or, on actually researching the effects some of the chemicals spotlighted last week on Planet in Peril are having on our bodies? But Mules??
Posted By Pamina, New Rochelle, NY : 6:05 PM ET
And I thought Louisiana politics were corrupt...
Posted By Debbie, Denham Springs, LA : 6:25 PM ET
Drew,

You did say Mule, right? Just what is it you're supposed to do, or see at this museum? Have you ever tried to plow with a mule? Gee or Haw with a mule? Does he know where the term "stubborn as a mule" came from?

Didn't this same political party laugh and snicker when Hillary wanted to build a "Woodstock" park and museum? Sure, it would cost more but hey! Which would you rather do ~ look at an old ugly mule, or breathe that wonderful Woodstock "aroma" and hang out with some old hippies?

Ah, yes. Those were the good old days, or so I've heard!

Maggie
Posted By Maggie, GVMO : 7:33 PM ET
Surely there's enough money in this region of California to raise $50,000.00 Heck, with the publicity this cnn report will generate, they could probably raise that amount in a few days !
Posted By Steve - Peoria, IL : 7:43 PM ET
I'm tired of hearing one hypocrite in Congress accusing another hypocrite in Congress about how they spend taxpayer money.

Republican or Democrat, it's time to put an end to all this wasteful spending.
Posted By Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA : 7:45 PM ET
No offense to mules, but this is the kind of government spending we have to rein in.
Posted By Cary - Lowell, IN : 7:47 PM ET
Knowing how dear animals are to California residents, I would think there's enough private money to pay fitting tribute to the mule.
Posted By carol l., salem, oregon : 7:50 PM ET
Citizens need to take note of these "earmark" expenditures, then take it to the voting booth !
Posted By Amber M, Lancaster, Pa. : 7:57 PM ET
Some of the small towns in the Eastern Sierra region are considered economically depressed and rely on tourism to survive. Mule Days has become a vital source of revenue to the community of Bishop and surrounding towns. Mules are a big part of the history and commerce in this area and have played an even larger role in the history of the U.S. Before you criticize a community's efforts to remain self sufficient, please do your homework. The history of the United States is worth preserving. There's a lot more to a mule museum than just jackasses.
Posted By Anonymous : 7:58 PM ET
I did laugh my a## off at this one; but even more outrageous is the $2 million requested to establish the "Charlie Rangel Center for Public Service" in NY, sponsored by guess which Representative ?!
Posted By Dane, Omaha, Nebraska : 8:01 PM ET
I thought Nancy Pelosi promised to stop all these earmarks.
Posted By Donna A., St Louis, MO : 8:03 PM ET
We have seen both the Republican and Democratic parties be fiscally irresponsible and the only way to tell them this is unacceptable is to threaten them at the voting booth.
Posted By Linda L, Lexington, KY : 8:12 PM ET
My favorite was the Sparta Teapot Museum in the Carolinas, which got $500,000 in 2005 from the fed. housing budget ! Im pro-teapot and pro-mule for that matter, but sometimes we have to just say no to these State Reps.
Posted By Shelby D., Raleigh, NC. : 8:17 PM ET
Both parties are failing in their obligation to the military, yet Congress has the nerve to put special interest spending before our soldiers. More for our troops , less for mules !
Posted By Jamie B-- Tucson, Az. : 8:23 PM ET
I read an interesting stat ; of the almost 13,000 earmarks found in bills last year, only 500 are subject to the Senate disclosure rules. That has to change.
Posted By Michael , Portland Me. : 8:27 PM ET
Memo to Congress: Why not give some money back to the people, if there's so much extra lying around?
Posted By jenny lee, merritt island, fl. : 8:34 PM ET
Well it's clear now that the earmark reform rhetoric is not becoming a reality. These Congressmen seem to think money grows on trees.
Posted By michele m - philadelphia : 8:42 PM ET
It's "herd" as in cattle, not "heard" as in taking in sound.

Jesus, if you are going to poke fun at a hardworking town who obviously got caught up in a political tit-for-tat at least spell things correctly, and get your facts straight.

Mule Days ends the Sunday of the Memorial Day weekend so that it does not impose on the holiday itself. The Mule Days Celebration isn't the "bad guy" here, no matter how hard you try to villify it.
Posted By Anonymous : 8:46 PM ET
I'd like to put a plug in for Representative Jeff Flake of Ariz. whose pet issue is pressing Senators and Reps. to cut pork barrel spending. He highlights an "Egregious Earmark" every week on his site and confronts his Washington cohorts about pork barrel spending . He shows the kind of responsible political leadership we need managing our tax money and I urge people to support his efforts. Thank you.
Posted By Cyndi, Paradise Valley, AZ : 8:58 PM ET
Every state has their pet projects and I think it's narrow-minded and childish of the cnn staff to single out the mule museum to report on. It's a local issue out there, and is no doubt important for tourism to people living in that area.
Posted By Javier , Santa Fe N.M. : 9:09 PM ET
A mule museum? It boggles the mind. What would they have in it - stuffed mules? Besides Columbia, TN claims the mule capital status - they have Mule Day Festival which gets so many participants it triples the size of the town.

The late Senator Proxmire used to have a Golden Fleece award for things like this. I'm betting he would have had fun with this one. Maybe someone ought to re-instate this "award". What about it Drew?

Annie Kate
Birmingham AL
Posted By Annie Kate : 9:15 PM ET
As a Californian, I can understand the vital service the mule performed, especially during the Gold Rush. However, as much as I like mules, donkeys and horses, I think a museum is a tad too much manure for public money. Just my two cents worth.
Posted By Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 9:34 PM ET
A mule museum? Mr. Boehner, I'd much rather you spend your time and my money trying to figure out a way to bring my brother home from Iraq.
Posted By Anonymous : 10:00 PM ET
I googled Bishop to see where it is in CA thinking perhaps it is at least near a major city. Not even close. Is he thinking this will be some kind of tourist attraction for people visiting Yosemite? This would not have been a draw for me when I was there. This is not anything I want my tax $ supporting. Let the town of Bishop save proceeds from the Mule Days festivities instead.
Posted By Angie Chapel Hill, NC : 10:03 PM ET
Mr. McKeon should be ashamed for making such a laughable request. His museum funding earmark is yet another example of a bridge to nowhere which should not be funded through government taxpayer funds.
Posted By Bill : 10:37 PM ET
Maybe Mr. McKeon should withdraw his request for a museum or perhaps he doesn't recognize the smell of a of jackass. This is yet another example of an earmark for a 'bridge to nowhere' which the citizens of this country should not fund.
Posted By Bill : 10:44 PM ET
Every year we vote for republicans or democrats. They know that they will be in power one way or another. They lie to us and they cheat us. Do you really think that the people in these parties care about us? They are mostly wealthy and do not represent the bulk of the U.S. population. It is time to send these people a message and put others in office. If you are worried other parties messing things up you shouldn't. They cannot screw up the country as much as the Democrats and the Republicans have.
Posted By Anonymous : 10:47 PM ET
Thanks CNN for running your 'Keeping them Honest' segments. I just wonder how many voters and campaign supporters from each party are really listening. Transparancy of ear-marks should easily be fixed if Nancy Peloci and her party will stick to their promises and the Republicans will stand up for what many thought they stood for (fiscally responsible). Why are we not seeing more play from the other media outlets (NBC, Fox, etc)? They should all be crying foul about how our government continues to mismanage tax revenues, but still many of these career congress members are re-elected to do the same poor jobs.
Posted By Anonymous : 11:14 PM ET
I would just like to comment on congress' earmark about the mule museum. I think Congress wants this, so by the time they pass away they will have somewhere to go.

Laurie Stanley, Jane Lew, WV
Posted By Anonymous : 11:28 PM ET
Why cann't he start a 501c3 non-profit many small towns have done just that for their museums.

Boone,IA
Posted By Anonymous : 11:33 PM ET
Mule Museum

The people will come and look, take pictures and make a day of it but never return because it's just a thing. A thing that can be done without. I'm just being open and honest.
Posted By Cameron : 12:26 AM ET
I'm a huge fan of 360, and keeping them honest, but tonight's show about money for local museums was the worst yet in my opinion. Someone did not look at the big picture when they decided to create this piece.

I grew up in a low income family. We got to go on one trip a year, which was when my dad was traveling for work. We didn't go to Disney or on a Carnival Cruise like kids today. We got to drive to some city like Dallas or Memphis and once my dad's convention was over was over we would take a week to see the city or the surrounding towns.

Since my parents save all year to pay for the room and food (and we all slept in the same motel room) we didn't have a lot left over for big attractions so we went to a lot of the little museums and such. Sounds boring but having little we loved it and felt special. Most kids in my neighborhood never left the block and would be waiting for us to come back and tell them about the glass bottle museum in upstate New York or the butterfly museum in California, and see the free pamphlets and such we came back with.

All of our teachers would tell our parents how smart our travels had made us, we knew so much more about other places, our manners were immpeccable, and we could relate to so many different types of people and cultures. This all came from good parenting and these trips to "jack ass" types of museums. We had to behave while there, listen, read, and write reports to our parents on what we liked and disliked about the museum and trip on the car ride back home.

Also I remember going to local museums in my home city with my mom or with my school. The school was in an economically poor area so they knew we could not afford to take a bus trip to NASA. Instead we to places like Ryan's Airfield and met a pilot and got sit on his little plane, or Indian Mound and learn about the the burial and life of Indians in our area before reservations came to exist, or the local dairy to see ancient dairy equipment and milk a cow.

Now I'm a somewhat successful white collar professional and I have no problem with a portion of my tax dollar going to establish these places for other kids to visit and learn about the history of their community and the communities of others. I encourage parents that are struggling to pay the credit card debt from the huge elaborate vacations to scale back next year and take advantage of some of these places across the nation. I know how it can improve their children lives and knowledge abilities for years to come. It might even improve their relationship as a family.

If you really want to attack something, why not continue to keep them honest on the billions we are spending in Iraq? How much of that is going to the Iraqi's vs to support and comfort our troops or better yet to get them home?

Or why not keep them honest on a new topic like the Social Security Bureau... After working 25 years in Corporate America, last year I moved to a state government job.. only to get a letter this year from the SS bureau that stated if I stopped working now and requested benefits at 67 I would get about 3k a month in today's dollars... HOWEVER now that I work for a gov't agency that benefit would now be considered a windfall since State Agency's offer pension plans and under the WEP provision I will now only get about 4
$400 dollars a month in Social Security benefits at age 67. What the heck?!!!! What about all of those THOUSANDS of dollars I was forced to contribute over the last 25 years?!? Shouldn't I get a lump sum refund of that money right now (even without interest) to roll over into that state pension plan or at least get the lump sum at age 67 since I can no longer participate? That is what any other retirement plan would have to do... why should our government be allowed to do any different? Why should I be penalized for want to help build our Government's IT infrastructure?

So if you REALLY want to keep them honest, go after the real issues where the government is truly ripping the citizens off. Stop picking on these little nits in society when there are so many bigger ones out there.

Again, I think the big picture and the true benefits of these museums were missed on this piece, but I do enjoy the show and will continue to watch.
Posted By beta : 12:32 AM ET
Its amazing how you are worrying about pet projects such as mule mueseums.

If I recall correctly, I believe that the Republicans have their own share of earmarked projects, namely, the Iraq War.

Iraq War: $464 billion
Cost of projects: 1.7 million

thats exactly .3%
So, you tell me whose wasting money.
Posted By Anonymous : 1:33 AM ET
What right does one citizen have to spend the earnings of others to maker him or herself more popular in the eyes of various factions of the public?

Members of congress need to think more of their obligations to better the public interest than just the members of their constituency. To be concerned moreso with the latter than with the former is merely local politics with a national purse.
Posted By Anonymous : 2:56 AM ET
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