Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “Day: June 29, 2007”

Skipper’s hits the rocks

Did you know that Skipper's seafood restaurants are northwest-based - in SeaTac (previously Edmonds)? (Admittedly, we didn't.) Or that it filed for bankruptcy protection last December?

Apparently, a number of the people who work there didn't know, and consequently have been taking by surprise with the news: Many of the chain's outlets will be closed and others sold, in many cases within a day or two, as a result of bankruptcy action.

Skipper's has (according to its web site) 70 outlets, including 30 in Washington, 13 in Oregon and eight in Idaho; the site also reports operations in Alaska, Montana and Utah. Wikipedia says that the action number is 58, and bankruptcy filings in December indicated 59.

Always liked their chowder . . .

Invisible earmark ink

Mike Crapo

Mike Crapo

We will say up top that singling out Idaho Senator Mike Crapo on the question of earmark information release, as the Anderson Cooper show did last night on CNN, isn't fair, on two grounds. One is that the bulk of U.S. senators of both parties take the same position - or at least hold the same bottom line - as Crapo does. The other reason is that Crapo picked up the notoriety because his press secretary was trying to helpful and explanatory, which shouldn't have earned a ding.

The larger point the program was making, though, is another matter, largely undiminished after we went through it this morning with Susan Wheeler, the press secretary. Let's run through this, and see whether most of the Senate (not Crapo alone) are right or wrong.

"Earmarks" are budget items specified for a particular purpose. A county, for example, might seek an earmark for federal funding for a park, or maybe a state seeks one for a health building. Or whatever. Certainly, private parties are interested in earmarks too.

For our purposes here, you can fit the earmarking process into three parts. There's the request from someone in-state to a member of Congress that their request be included for federal funding. The second stage comes as members of Congress and their staffs sift through these requests, and propose some of them to an appropriations committee or subcommittee for action. The third stage is the formal, public action by the committee to approve some of those requests (extending, of course, into further floor and committee action on the way to ultimate bill signing).

The third part of the earmarking process, at the committee level and beyond, is public, and there's no dispute about it. The first part of the process, which involves constituent communications (a category that also includes such things as constituent negotiations over Social Security payments), is commonly taken as a confidential communication, and there's not much dispute about that either (though we'll partially asterisk that and return to it below). The dispute concerns the second area - the work that the member of Congress and staff do before the committee acts on the proposal: Most senators, including Crapo, say information about what earmarks they propose to the committees should not be released to the public.

What gets left out of the process is any information about earmarks proposed but rejected by the committee, and about which senators proposed any of the earmarks at all.