Press Clips

"The question is also how many more leases need to be sold? A recent study by the Taxpayers for Common Sense found that cheap rental rates mean speculators can buy up leases and sit on them, locking the land away from other uses, such as recreation or grazing." (The study is Locked Out.)
Regarding Steve Ellis on coal to Kaiserslautern: "He's right to call attention to the matter. The idea is senseless in so many ways."
“I don’t think you’ll see expansion of work requirements" and “It’s too big of a bridge to cross." - Josh Sewell on proposed changes to SNAP
"These are common sense, bipartisan solutions for a program that desperately needs fixing. .... Congress has the power to mitigate the damage by reforming the broken NFIP, and time is running out." - Steve Ellis
"With or without the revenue loss from the tax law, the major entitlement programs were on an unsustainable trajectory ... Changes or ‘cuts’ to Medicare and Social Security are not simply because of a $1.9 trillion deficit increase, which would ‘only’ be roughly $200 billion a year, when we’re looking at a total deficit of $800 billion this year and $1 trillion annual deficits soon." - Steve Ellis
Stars and Stripes Jun 15, 2018
"The European Deterrence Initiative (EDI) is one of the latest rabbit holes down which the Pentagon has been chucking billions from its burgeoning budget. Originally meant to supplement U.S. commitment to NATO, EDI has taken on a funding life of its own." - Ryan Alexander
“Lawmakers killed this parochial provision twice in recent years, but like a zombie, it keeps coming back....It may be slightly changed, but the intent is clear: force the Pentagon to buy domestic coal to fuel American facilities in Kaiserslautern, Germany.” Steve Ellis
"“This administration has been less transparent—aided and abetted by the House,” Ellis said. “They closed budget oversight hearings on the Pentagon. We’ve never seen that.” -Steve Ellis on the Pentagon's silence towards budget information.
“Just to be clear, there are scores of military bands, and we question their utility from a taxpayer perspective already,” said Steve Ellis of the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense. “Only objective here seems to be to have an event that isn’t Super Bowl or football related and score a political point. That’s not just a bad use of the military band, but a bad use of White House resources in general.” -Steve Ellis on the White House's use of a military band for a political event.
"Floods have hit Ellicott City hard in recent years, and unfortunately, major storms will likely continue to hammer Maryland and rest of the country for the foreseeable future. The time has come for the Senate to tackle these NFIP reforms to ensure homeowners suffering from flood damage are not left hanging out to dry." -Steve Ellis on the need for flood insurance reform.
"These are people who travel to and from their districts a lot, and some of them have told me they have the points to fly first-class but won't use them," Alexander said — even when such an upgrade wouldn't cost taxpayers a dime. "They say, 'I want to go talk to my constituents without a newspaper article that says I flew first class.'" - Ryan Alexander on the optics of travel and ticket purchase choices.
“Lawmakers seem to prefer a dull scalpel when the backlog requires a machete .... Being deauthorized doesn’t mean a project can’t be reevaluated and come back better. But holding on to decades-old projects in hope that funds will materialize is wasteful.” - Steve Ellis, on infrastructure, the Army Corps of Engineers, Water Resources Development Act, and America’s Water Infrastructure Act (paywall)
The American Spectator May 29, 2018
Farming by Facetime: "Instead of targeting assistance to people facing the day-to-day risks of farming and ranching, we’re cutting checks to the people who are participating in conference calls on planting decisions or preparing the books.” - Joshua Sewell
"I would argue not what most people consider to be ‘very soon’" - Steve Ellis on President Trump's claim that "very soon you are going to get to 355 beautiful ships."
Morning Consult May 25, 2018
"Scott Pruitt had the opportunity to show some contrition or understanding of why his extravagant spending has undermined confidence in his leadership at the EPA, but he didn’t take it." - Ryan Alexander
Lobbyists for Big Agriculture have deep connections to the House and Senate’s agriculture committees, which ultimately write and approve the Farm Bill. A study from the conservative Taxpayers For Common Sense found that one in four lobbyists had previously worked for either the House or the Senate committee.
“A Republican-only farm bill needs to make significant changes to the bill to get votes...There is significant appetite for reform to both the farm safety net and the nutrition sides of the bill.” - Joshua Sewell
Orlando Sentinel May 14, 2018
"The looming Atlantic hurricane season should serve as a strong warning that unless Congress reforms and renews the nation’s debt-ridden flood insurance program, more than 1.7 million Floridians may be unable to rebuild when future storms strike." - Steve Ellis
Tennessee Commercial Appeal May 11, 2018
"From first-class travel and accommodations to requests for a bullet-proof office desk, Pruitt’s profligacy with the public’s money ranges from extravagant to downright bizarre." - Ryan Alexander
Watertown Public Opinion May 11, 2018
"It’s 'a fiscally reckless step back' in sound ag policy, notes Joshua Sewell, senior policy analyst for Taxpayers for Common Sense. He forecasts fat 'checks will cascade from the (U.S.) Treasury to farmers.'”
"Pruitt’s defenders say he is only being targeted by people who want to oppose the president’s agenda. This is patently absurd. Of course the president will appoint those who believe in and can carry out the administration’s priorities. We know Scott Pruitt is not the only one that can do that job." - Ryan Alexander
“There are some changes to the nutrition programs, and there are no positive changes to the [agricultural] welfare programs” - Joshua Sewell on the 2018 farm bill.
"..the GOP farm bill allows farm owners’ first cousins, nieces, and nephews to qualify for up to $125,000 in commodity subsidies, so long as they earn less than $900,000 in adjusted gross income. While Representative Conaway says this is intended to keep family farms intact across generations, groups including The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and Taxpayers for Common Sense have criticized this proposal for its potential to pave the way for America’s largest farms to rake in virtually unlimited subsidies."
"In February of this year, the BLM proposed a rule that, if finalized, would reinstate outdated guidance that has led to the needless loss of billions of taxpayer dollars from natural gas production over the past 35 years. The country has the largest debt relative to the economy since World War II, revenues are declining, and deficits are growing. This is no time to give away billions of dollars to profitable businesses." - Ryan Alexander
"With bidding interest so low, budget hawks say, auctioning so many leases is neither good business nor good policy, ultimately benefiting private interests while delivering tiny returns to U.S. taxpayers who own the land. The nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense said in an October report that speculators were swooping in to buy leases with no intention of drilling, looking to flip leases at a profit if the market improves."
“You have this minor tweak to subsidies, but a huge disruption to SNAP,” said Josh Sewell, a senior policy analyst at fiscal watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense said. “It’s a tricky situation, especially for these two members.”
According to Josh Sewell at Taxpayers for Common Sense, this kind of debt 'takes away an opportunity to respond to a crisis through economic stimulus.' In a crisis, he said, the government would struggle to raise money for an influx of cash into the economy, or to pay for something like a war or natural disaster. Not to mention, Sewell said, 'the demographic wave that's about to crash into Social Security and Medicare' of aging baby boomers who will start withdrawing more from the programs than taxpayers are putting in."
"As the BLM moves forward to amend that rule, it must change course and address the underlying problems with the process of approving and recording lost gas," the Taxpayers for Common Sense report says. "Enshrining old policies or further incentivizing wasteful practices will only cost taxpayers for years to come." (paywall)
On encouraging work and reduction of benefits: “It’s a truly universal sentiment that we should reward work and figure out policies that encourage people to work...But I don’t think that that will have a significant impact on the deficit.”
Taxpayers for Common Sense, likened the plane’s inclusion in Congress’ budget to “the [appropriations] version of Oprah.” “You get a plane, you get a plane, you get a plane!”
"The Pentagon 'went gonzo' on aircraft procurement, said Steve Ellis, the vice president of Tax­payers for Common Sense, a watchdog group. 'Really what this comes down to is: More is not a strategy, and there is no underlying rhyme or rationale for the increases, except for they had money to spend.'”
“Americans are big hearted ... We see a disaster, and we want to assist. We want the government to assist. But that means we can’t afford to be softheaded in anticipation of that. You want to see the right priorities from the start, and to be sure that it’s not so rigid or static that the Forest Service can’t still meet their needs as smaller changes develop.”
The time has come for the Senate to tackle these NFIP reforms to ensure homeowners suffering from flood damage are not left hanging out to dry.
"The farm bill’s complexity makes it difficult to assemble a bipartisan coalition that can get it through the House – and cuts that make a Republican-only bill possible then founder in the Senate."
"Tax extenders reaffirmed themselves as the 'cockroaches of the Washington policy environment,' said Steve Ellis, vice president of nonpartisan budget watchdog organization Taxpayers for Common Sense. 'They seem to always survive.'”
"The farm bill’s complexity makes it difficult to assemble a bipartisan coalition that can get it through the House – and cuts that make a Republican-only bill possible then founder in the Senate."
"The legal pay-to-play creates a culture that invites corruption."
US News & World Report Mar 2, 2018
"Ten days after the release of the President's budget request, and already the Pentagon is asking for more."
US News & World Report Feb 28, 2018
A government committee meant to protect taxpayers is recommending huge gifts to the energy industry at the public's expense.
Bloomberg & BloombergQuint Feb 28, 2018
"Ryan Alexander, the president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, said the committee’s recommended changes appear to reflect the wishes of industry stakeholders -- not the broader public. A royalty rate decrease 'is likely to dramatically reduce revenue for taxpayers for decades to come without any guarantee of increased industry interest' or production."
“Just shoveling cash in to the Pentagon is recipe for waste going forward ....[In McCain’s absence] other lawmakers are going to have to step up.”
“[Industry] They’re the ones who should bear the greatest responsibility for building and maintaining them [locks and dams].”
"It seems more like a vanity project than a legitimate public relations move."
National Review Feb 20, 2018
"Oops. I was wrong, wrong, wrong. OCO are alive and well under Mulvaney’s watch. Taxpayers for Common Sense has this handy chart about the $69 billion OCO gimmicks"
“There are two main types of CHIMPs [changes in mandatory programs]: Those that rely on fake ‘paper savings’ to mask increased spending elsewhere in the federal budget and those resulting in meaningful funding cuts with real-world consequences, such as undermining underlying program goals and creating uncertainty and unpredictability.”
“Of course Congress can amend the structure and redirect it [the gas tax] in some infrastructure package ...But there are already those that complain gas tax dollars should just go to roads, not transit or bus or anything else. And the fact is it doesn’t generate enough revenue for the amount Congress already wants to spend!”
"Under this request the nation will accumulate more American debt - an additional $2 trillion in the first two years alone, and more than $7 trillion over 10 years."
The Washington Examiner Feb 12, 2018
“There have been commissions and panels over the years, but something has to give....If this is the way Congress wanders back from the budgetary wilderness, then great.” - Steve Ellis
"Ellis noted that in the 2005 highway bill, earmarks were based on position and power. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) got $1 billion in earmarks (including the Bridge to Nowhere), or 760 times the $13 million average that Ellis cited for rank and file members."
Orlando Sentinel Jan 30, 2018
"Reviving earmarking to fix budgeting is like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet hole."
Colorado Springs Gazette Jan 29, 2018
"We cannot afford to turn back the clock on methane waste; we must continue fighting for common sense federal rules that benefit both industry and taxpayers. Without the BLM methane rule, oil and gas companies' wastefulness will continue without consequence, and millions of dollars of taxpayer-owned natural gas will go up in flames."
New York Times Jan 26, 2018
"Earmarks sound like a quick fix, but bringing them back would relaunch a pay-to-play system that picks winners and losers based on political muscle rather than on project merit."
Politico Jan 24, 2018
"Many have noted that the absence of earmarks have made it harder to pass transportation bills, but Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, would like to remind everybody that earmarks are not 'some sort of magic pixie dust to move legislation.'"
"We know that without the BLM methane rule, methane waste will continue without consequence, and millions of dollars of taxpayer-owned natural gas will go up in flames."
The New York Times Jan 21, 2018
Mr. Trump has become such a Washington creature that he’s rooting for a return to earmarks, that opaque process in which legislators direct federal spending to their home districts and pet projects, like Republican Representative Don Young of Alaska’s failed “bridge to nowhere,” a plan to waste more than $300 million on a mammoth bridge to an Alaska island of 50 inhabitants.
The Boston Globe Jan 21, 2018
Few other congressional observers remember the late ’90s and early 2000s as any kind of Golden Age. “I don’t think people think of the Newt Gingrich years as when everyone got along so wonderfully,” said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense.
"All critical military functions will continue. ... There would be some wrinkles, but nothing like other areas of government."
"Once the money was appropriated and the earmark went out, there was no oversight to see did it actually go to that project? Did it actually do that? Congress is very lazy, in our opinion, about doing oversight and that's really their fundamental job."
"The big problem is that earmarks put political muscle over project merit," and that is not worth bringing back.
Fox News Jan 10, 2018
“Earmarks are not some sort of magic pixie dust that makes legislation go."
"I'm gonna say that if you're a wage earner and you're sitting next to someone who's doing the same thing you're doing and just paying less taxes because their job is structured differently on paper, I think you're just going to be mad."
CNN - The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer Dec 18, 2017
"It's definitely crazy to spend $22 million to research UFOs. Pilots are always going to see things that they can't identify, and we should probably look into them. But to identify them as UFOs, to target UFOs to research -- that is not the priority we have as a national security matter right now."
"Congress needs to do the hard work of making those difficult decisions, not ram through a terrible bill in the middle of the night."
Full Measure with Sharyl Atkisson Dec 3, 2017
"There are so many line items in the OCO account that simply aren't what the account's designed for. And that's important because Congress set limits for itself. And by pushing money out of those limits and into the Overseas Contingent Account, they're going around their own rules, they're circumventing the law."
"The Energy Department needs to stop ignoring the risk associated with the Vogtle project...It only puts us on a never-ending path of giving more financial support at the expense of federal taxpayers."
"“It’s basically lather, rinse, repeat,” Steve Ellis, the vice-president of the non-partisan group Taxpayers for Common Sense, recently told Politico."
""Every dollar invested in it in the future is going to continue to be a waste,” said Josh Sewell, a senior policy analyst with Washington-based Taxpayers for Common Sense."
FactCheck.Org May 24, 2017
"In a statement on Trump’s budget, Taxpayers for Common Sense President Ryan Alexander said, “These same growth projections are what the administration was counting on to pay for tax reform, but they’re not accounted for in here as such.”"
The Wall Street Journal Nov 13, 2016
"The tax breaks that Congress provides on income derived from or devoted to certain activities are designed to encourage that specific activity. But what they end up doing is distorting economic decision making and rewarding activity that would occur even without the special treatment."
U.S. News & World Report Nov 14, 2014
"As a country, we need Congress to live up to their responsibility of having the power of the purse – and to take on the larger set of choices contained in each bill rather than focusing on the provincial interests represented by earmarks. "
"Taxpayers for Common Sense seeks a balance of Republicans and Democrats on its board of directors, said Alexander, a seven-year board member before she became president in 2006."
"The nuclear energy industry. It had lobbied hard for $50 billion worth of federal loan guarantees for technologies that use little or no carbon — but saw it stripped from the package. Count environmental groups and the conservative Taxpayers for Common Sense as the victors here."
"...the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, is credited with naming the bridge. It started in 2002, he says, when he got a tip about a huge pork barrel project."
PolitiFact Sep 8, 2008
"The project came into national prominence when Taxpayers for Common Sense, an advocacy group that opposes wasteful spending, cited it as an extreme example of pork-barrel spending."