Virtue Is Its Own Reward

G. Tracy Mehan, III
The American Spectator

During the dark days of Republican profligacy, when earmarks were the rule and GOP House and Senate members routinely voted for massive discretionary spending bills (many loaded with pork and earmarks) there was one man who bucked the tide of red ink: Rep.Jeff Flake (R-Arizona).

“I believed the earmarks game was robbing us as Republicans of our identity as fiscal conservatives,” said Flake.

Indeed, Flake was even willing to challenge earmarks of the highest-ranking Republicans, including then- House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (IL), who lost his job when the GOP was decimated in the 2006 elections for many things, including earmarks and spending, not to mention two seemingly-endless wars.

Flake routinely tried to kill indefensible earmarks for such unworthy projects as the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame or a museum dedicated to teapots. For this, he was punished severely by the powers that be, i.e., his fellow Republicans.

Jeff Flake’s story is told with sympathy by Michael Leahy in his recent article in The Washington Post (“House earmarks gadfly is case study in survival,” July 11, 2011)…

…Leahy describes how Flake was “pummeled and left for dead” by GOP colleagues due to his sustained criticism of pork-barrel spending. Indeed, even current House Speaker John Boehner, who has not dabbled in earmarking during his long career, was party to the Arizona congressman’s public humiliation, which started when Jeff Flake was stripped of his seat on the prestigious House Judiciary Committee in 2006 — dashing his hopes of becoming committee chairman…

The article continues at The American Spectator.

Update: From ReasonTV

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) has represented the Diamondback State’s sixth congressional district since 2001, cutting a pro-immigration, pro-trade, limited-government, anti-spending path that contrasts sharply with the mainstream of the Republican Party.

Flake’s campaign against “earmarking,” or larding up bills with giveaways for legislators’ home districts, brought national attention to this issue and inspired some important rule changes. He has been a lonely voice in the House calling for an end to the U.S.-imposed travel ban on Cuba. And in a state that has shocked much of the country with its intolerance toward both documented and undocumented immigrants, Flake has consistently argued for reducing obstacles to legal immigration and establishing more effective guest worker programs.

Now Flake has his eye on the Senate seat being vacated next year by the retiring Republican Jon Kyl. While there’s plenty of competition for his House job, Flake is so far alone in the race for Arizona’s junior Senate seat.

A former head of the Goldwater Institute and practicing Mormon, Flake is a leading voice for freer markets and more personal freedom within the Republican Party.

Late in June, Flake sat down with Reason Senior Editor Tim Cavanaugh to discuss these matters and more.

Approximately 28 minutes

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