Your Jan. 17 editorial "The Keepers of K Street" ignored the most crucial source of "earmarks" in the congressional process -- a campaign finance system that favors the bribery of interest groups over the contributions of citizens. Under McCain-Feingold, a citizen with diverse interests in the future of the nation is permitted to contribute $2,000. A political action committee representing a single interest group is permitted essentially unlimited contributions.
In other words, a PAC is a monomaniac with a single legislative goal. Until ordinary taxpayers with diverse interests and common sense -- perhaps kids in school, a stake in the Iraq war, a direct grasp of the counterproductive effects of the tax code -- are allowed to contribute as much as a governmental union or Archer Daniels Midland, earmarks will flourish regardless of budgetary reforms, which usually end up as obstacles to cuts in tax rates.
Congress has ears on both sides. You cannot end special interest politics by removing the earmarked spending unless you also remove the McCain-Feingold system favoring earmarked contributions.