Have a Little Pork With your Breakfast

The practice of earmarking, despite Democrats campaign promise to end the practice, continues apace - if less visible than before.Today brings news of one gigantic earmark designed to benefit one company and one company only: Plum Creek Timber (publicly traded under the symbol PCL). The earmark involved land owned by Plum Creek in Montana. Coincidentally enough, Montana's Democrat Senator Max Baucus is chair of the Senate Finance Committee that granted the earmark.

Already the beneficiary of the a REIT status (where the company itself pays no federal taxes, but shareholders who receive generous dividends are taxable), Plum Creek is now to get yet another government break. One provision in the House-passed energy legislation subsidizes any sale of prime bull trout habitat in Montana for conservation purposes. From Bloomberg:
A provision in the 1,055-page energy measure would make U.S. taxpayers pay the interest on as much as $500 million of state-issued ``forestry conservation bonds'' to be used for the potential purchase of at least 40,000 acres of Plum Creek timberlands. Seattle-based Plum Creek is the biggest private landowner in Montana.

Federal taxpayers would pay as much as $161 million to help the state of Montana compete with developers in the potential sale of land near population centers such as Missoula.

The provision ``aims to protect pristine lands from ever being flipped by developers into condos and strip malls,'' said Carol Guthrie, a spokeswoman for the Senate Finance Committee. That panel's chairman, Democrat Max Baucus, is from Montana and helped write the energy bill.

House Republicans called the provision a special-interest clause, or earmark, which Democrats said they would limit when they took control of Congress in January.

The legislation ``can only possibly benefit one landowner in the U.S.,'' Republican Representative Jim McCrery of Louisiana told reporters. ``These are the kinds of things that are hatched in secrecy.''

The more things change, the more things remain the same. The Democrats have again failed to fulfill their promise to end earmarks. I suppose they have been to busy collecting campaign donations and trying to derail our efforts in Iraq.