The Magazine

In Praise of a GOP Moderate

Mark Kirk is the party's best hope in Illinois.

Apr 13, 2009, Vol. 14, No. 29 • By KENNETH Y. TOMLINSON
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Combined with the provisions of the Ways and Means Committee, this legislation will cost taxpayers $825 billion and claims to save 3.7 million jobs. That means the government will save each job at an average cost of $222,972. Combined with the previous $700 billion bailout bill, the cost per job saved by recent congressional spending is $412,162 per job saved. On average, the private sector created jobs at a cost of $50,283 per job in 2007.

No Republican was more forceful in going after scandalous earmarks--and earmarkers. Kirk cast aside congressional decorum and condemned the obvious chicanery of the more than 9,000 earmarks in the omnibus 2009 appropriations bill. In a memo to GOP colleagues, Kirk charged:

This bill includes at least 23 earmarks for PMA Company lobbyists. The FBI raided PMA's offices in Arlington in November. The Justice Department is currently investigating whether PMA lobbyists used "straw donors" to route money to favored lawmakers.

He listed by name the millions in earmarks to PMA clients. Kirk also identified in his memo the recipients of Democratic representative John Murtha's earmarks--unions and businessmen who had given him lavish political contributions. Kirk may be a moderate, but he's not a wimp.

Kirk is the reason that Illinois Democrats have not fulfilled their pledge to hold a special election to fill President Obama's Senate seat, now held by the Blagojevich-appointed Roland Burris. Backing away from earlier assurances that Obama's successor would be elected, Illinois Democrats defeated a legislative move to enable the people to elect their U.S. senator. But with Burris under federal investigation for lying his way (under oath) into the Senate and Blagojevich newly indicted (a move that will unleash another flood of taped conversations), Illinois political observers believe a special election is inevitable. Republicans see an opportunity.

Kirk is not the only potential Republican candidate. He may face opposition from second-term Representative Peter Roskam, a popular Republican with a near-perfect conservative voting record. Yet, unlike many House Republican moderates, Kirk is genuinely liked and respected throughout the party. There already is talk of Roskam soon winning a spot in the House Republican leadership, and he might be convinced his real future is in the House.

After Kirk's surprisingly impressive reelection victory last year, the Rothenberg Political Report declared: "It appears that no amount of Democratic money will take Kirk down." Rothenberg was writing about Kirk's North Shore congressional district. Soon he might be saying that about the state of Illinois.

Kenneth Tomlinson, former editor in chief of Reader's Digest, was chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees U.S. international broadcasting, from 2002-2007.