OUR VIEW: Sen. Johnson erred pushing for money for wife’s programAfter 26 years in Congress, U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson should have known he would take heat for pushing funds toward a program that benefitted his wife.
By: Editorial board, The Daily Republic
After 26 years in Congress, U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson should have known he would take heat for pushing funds toward a program that benefitted his wife.
The controversy began earlier this month, when The Washington Post reported that Johnson helped direct money to Starbase, a Pentagon-run program that teaches science, math and engineering skills to students at various sites across the nation. The series was about politicians who direct money toward programs that involve close family members.
Johnson is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which oversees the Pentagon’s — and therefore Starbase’s — budget. Barbara Johnson was paid $80,000 annually over more than five years to help evaluate Starbase.
The Washington Post claims the money sent to Starbase was an earmark; Tim Johnson says that’s not true, although various analysts interviewed by the Post corroborate the Post’s claim.
We agree with the Post — the money was an earmark. It’s important to get to the true meaning of earmark, since senators must declare that earmarks will not benefit an immediate family member.
According to the website factcheck.org, earmarks are “allocations of revenue in a bill that are directed to a specific project or recipient, typically in a legislator’s home state or district.”
This particular funding wasn’t sent to Johnson’s home state, but does appear to be “directed to a specific project.” But determining the true definition of the funding is just part of the overall issue.
Johnson should have realized that allocating millions of dollars toward a program that financially benefits his wife would stir controversy.
It’s also frustrating that his staff responded with the ultimate political cliché, saying the situation is a “non-issue.”
If we had 10 bucks for every time we heard that from a politician, we could help fund Mitchell’s proposed Corn Palace expansion.
Obviously, it’s an issue. Johnson should have admitted that it is, acknowledged that he should have abstained from any influential position with the funding and moved on.