Here's something that will jar a few of your preconceived notions (at least, among those who were so dismissive of Bill Moyers a while back as a liberal shill): It's a Bill Moyers report on PBS that calls Democratic leaders to task for double-crossing Jim DeMint and deep-sixing earmark reform.
Remember when everyone was so impressed that Nancy Pelosi was working with Sen. DeMint on this issue? Well, this report tells the rest of the story, of how the promise was undone.
An excerpt from the transcript:
But in the Defense Bill, almost all the earmarks first go to federal entities before being passed along to private contractors. In effect, senators would be able to hide almost every earmark. And that prompted a challenge from Senator Jim DeMint — a champion of earmark transparency. The South Carolina Republican made a startling admission.
JIM DEMINT: Many in this Chamber know I don't often agree with Speaker Pelosi, but Speaker Pelosi has the right idea.
SYLVIA CHASE: And a stunning proposal.As an amendment to the Ethics Bill, the staunchly conservative Republican DeMint proposed that the Senate adopt word-for-word the House version of earmark reform marshaled through by the liberal Democrat Nancy Pelosi
JIM DEMINT: We proposed the DeMint-Pelosi Amendment. And I presented it on the floor. And the place was quiet.
JIM DEMINT: This is the language which the new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has put in this lobbying reform bill in order to make it more honest and transparent.
SYLVIA CHASE: It was a brilliant tactical move. If the Democratic majority was to reject DeMint's amendment it would mean rejecting the much stronger earmark disclosure rules crafted under their own party's high profile Speaker of the House.
JIM DEMINT: Harry Reid did not want this to come for a vote. He made a motion to table it, which gives the members some cover because you're not really voting against the amendment. You're just voting to table it.
SYLVIA CHASE: "Tabling" the so-called DeMint-Pelosi Amendment would mean removing it from consideration — effectively, killing it.
HARRY REID: I would appeal to my friend from South Carolina. I repeat: I know you are doing this because you think it is the right thing to do. But take the opportunity to look at what is here. It is better than the House version – so much better.
JIM DEMINT: And Senator Reid assumed as most people did including me that he would get fifty-one votes to table it. And we had a few heroes on the Democrat side that joined us, Barack Obama, relatively new senator, bucked his party and voted with us.
SENATE PRESIDING OFFICER: On this vote the ayes are 46, the nays are 51. The motion to table is not agreed to.
JIM DEMINT: And we defeated the tabling motion. Well once the tabling motion failed by a vote or two, everyone knew they were going to have to vote on the real thing and it was like 98 to nothing. I mean this is the kind of thing that if, if senators know America can see what they're voting on, they were afraid not to vote for it.
SYLVIA CHASE: Indeed, with all eyes watching — 98 senators voted in favor of the artfully crafted DeMint-Pelosi Amendment; not one opposed it.
The junior senator from South Carolina had taken on the powerful Senate Majority Leader and won. Or so it appeared. Remember: this was an amendment to a wide-ranging ethics bill. And before a bill becomes a law, its final language must be worked out between both houses of Congress. Steve Ellis, a leading earmark reform advocate in Washington, explains how the game works.
STEVE ELLIS: So rather than doing what the House did which was simply change their rules. You're done the next day. Everything is changed and you have to abide by earmark reform, people could still modify it before it actually ended up becoming the rules of the Senate.
SYLVIA CHASE: Which is precisely what happened.
You can watch the video here (sorry, I couldn't find imbed code).
By the way, Barack Obama — whom DeMint had occasion to praise back at the start of this tale ("And we had a few heroes on the Democrat side that joined us, Barack Obama, relatively new senator, bucked his party and voted with us.") — does not escape Moyers' skepticism. Near the top, he notes:
Don't hold your breath. As a senator, Barack Obama himself was no slouch when it came to passing out earmarks. And many of the people in his incoming administration are accomplished practitioners…