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'Pork' fighter said punished by GOP

Feb. 21, 2008 at 12:03 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., is being punished by GOP leaders for his unsuccessful crusade against "pork" spending, watchdog groups say.

Flake was among those passed over recently when the House Republican Steering Committee filled a vacancy on the powerful House Appropriations Committee and chose newcomer Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Ala.

Bonner "symbolizes the changing perspective in the House Republican ranks on the role of earmarks," House GOP leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said.

But to Flake, and his public interest group supporters, it smacked of punishment, coming a month after the four-term lawmaker was bounced off his top committee assignment.

"I was told that I was taken off the Judiciary Committee because of 'bad behavior,'" Flake told The Christian Science Monitor. "I guess to be a team player you only challenge Democratic earmarks. I don't think that's right."

"We want to support the minority's efforts for reform as much as possible, but when they pass up a golden opportunity for earmark reform, it doesn't make sense," Keith Ashdown, principal investigator for Taxpayers for Common Sense, which tracks congressional earmarks, said to the Monitor.

Ed Frank, a spokesman for Americans for Prosperity Foundation, told the newspaper Flake on the inside could help bring public scrutiny to earmarking earlier in the process.

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