Under the Dome

Burr signs Republicans' no-earmarks pledge

November 14, 2010 

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr last week signed on to a Republican no-earmarks pledge gaining attention in a behind-the-scenes Senate power scuffle within the GOP.

The pledge is the brainchild of U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who wants Senate Republicans to ban earmark spending in the 112th Congress. Earmarks are congressionally directed spending that benefits home districts.

DeMint, a tea party-backed Republican who has been working to increase his influence in the Senate, has gathered support among his colleagues for giving up earmarks.

At the same time, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been quietly lobbying against the ban, according to Politico, a Capitol Hill newspaper. McConnell has said he worries the ban will give more spending authority to the White House.

McConnell has support, too: Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe told Politico the earmark ban was a "phony issue," given its small role in the federal budget.

This isn't the first such anti-earmark pledge for Burr, a Winston-Salem Republican. He promised in 2009 that he wouldn't ask for new earmarks, though he did agree to continue sponsoring requests for some ongoing projects.

The Senate returns to Washington this week, when Republicans - including those just elected - will hash out the issue behind closed doors, at the GOP conference Tuesday.

Pope's investments

The left-leaning Institute for Southern Studies released a post-election analysis dissecting the impact of the more than $2.2 million spent by Art Pope and members of his family boosting GOP candidates for the state legislature.

According to the group's analysis of state and federal campaign records, three independent groups Pope backed - Americans for Prosperity, Civitas Action and Real Jobs NC - poured $2 million into 22 state legislative races targeted by Republicans. Pope and his family members injected an additional $240,000 into those races for a total of more than $2.2 million.

Some Democrats were targeted by just one of three outside advocacy groups; 12 were attacked by two or more. Five unlucky Democrats were barraged by attacks from all three.

Republicans won 17 of the 22 races in districts targeted by the spending, and four others are too close to call.

Black gets his license back

Former House Speaker Jim Black can go back to work as an eye doctor once he finishes up the paperwork and pays a fee.

A state optometry board panel voted last Thursday to restore Black's license, according to an Associated Press report.

Last month, Black left federal prison in Georgia, where he had served time for government corruption. The Matthews Democrat had surrendered his license in 2008 while in prison. His lawyer said last month that he planned to write a book.

Black was scheduled to be released in February 2012. He won early release in part by completing a nine-month, 500-hour drug-abuse program.

Black, who led the House for a record-tying eight years, in 2007 became one of state's highest-serving officials jailed on corruption charges. He pleaded guilty to accepting at least $25,000 in illegal, mostly cash payments from chiropractors.

By staff writers Barbara Barrett, Michael Biesecker and Alan M. Wolf

bbarrett@mcclatchydc.com or 202-383-0012

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