Monday, December 03, 2007
An earmark for the books
In 1850, new First Lady Abigail Fillmore sent a note to Congress asking for $2,000.

Mrs. Fillmore had just moved into the White House after the death of President Zachary Taylor elevated her husband, Millard Fillmore, from the vice-presidency.

Abigail, a teacher and librarian, was stunned to discover the shelves in the White House library were empty. Not a book to be found, not even, so the story goes, a Bible.

Well Abbie wouldn't stand for this, so she sent that note, and Congress approved the money to buy books.

Why am I telling you this? Because 157 years later you are about to buy those same books again, only this time the price is $130,000.We are telling you this as part of our never-ending quest to track down the secret treasures being doled out by Congress in the form of earmarks.

The First Ladies Library in Canton, Ohio, along with the Bibliography Society of America, wants to rebuild Abigail Fillmore's book collection. To do that, the group is asking for a $130,000 gift from taxpayers, using the money to locate and purchase the actual books, which, since Abigail first bought them in 1850, have been scattered around the country.

Now maybe some of you out there think this is a perfectly good way to spend your tax dollars. But, to me, it sounds like the ultimate limited interest pet project that only a very few people will be interested in, let alone visit right there in downtown Canton, Ohio. Ah, but it is the very few who make this story very interesting.

You see, the First Ladies Library was the creation of another first lady of sorts, the wife of longtime, powerful Republican Congressman Ralph Regula, whose district includes Canton. The director of research at the First Ladies Library is Ralph Regula's daughter, Martha. And, surprise, the congressman asking for and getting that $130,000 dollar earmark is Rep. Ralph Regula.
Now let's be honest and upfront.

-The First Ladies Library was built entirely on donations.

-It has never had an earmark until now.

-Mary Regula is a delightful person and a passionate champion of our nation’s history, as you will see in her interview tonight.

-Mrs. Regula, whose husband has been in Congress for three decades, thinks $130,000 dollars is not a lot of money and she will spend it wisely on your behalf.

-The budget deficit in this country is now more than $9 trillion dollars.

So here's the question: Do you want to spend $130,000 taxpayer dollars to fill up some shelves at the First Ladies Library in Canton, Ohio?


--By Drew Griffin, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 11:07 AM ET
  1 Comments
Straight up, no.

I love books; I understand the nostalgic desire to rebuild such an historic collection. But I can only think of how that money could go to buy books for a library or school destroyed by Katrina, books for a program for under-privileged kids, a few meals for a homeless shelter, or something else that can serve an immediate, human need.

In a time where people are losing their homes, building a library for posterity seems, well, like a frivolous pet project for a woman needing a hobby that doesn't take money away from people who need it most.

Seriously, Mary and Martha, try quilting or something. And then donate those warm quilts to a homeless shelter or the homeless person down the street, shivering on a cold, December night. Or, how about your elderly neighbor who cannot afford to heat her home because of the rising cost of oil?

Don’t be selfish. History is great, but kindness toward humans in need is greater.
Posted By Andi M.D.J. : 2:49 PM ET
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