The Washington Post

U.S. Rep. Dan Maffei unapologetic for plugging ladders in defense bill

Rep. Dan Maffei, who has been accused of inserting a “backdoor” earmark into the defense appropriations bill, told constituents at a community forum in Auburn, N.Y., that he was unapologetic for doing so and that it showed his attempts to serve his district, according to

In an interview with the news organization Tuesday evening, the Democratic congressman said he was simply trying to draw attention to an upstate New York company that manufactures lightweight, carbon-fiber composite ladders.

“The military loves them because they are so lightweight and they are very strong,” Maffei said. “The challenge is making sure that people who buy stuff for the military and Pentagon know about his little family-owned company in upstate New York. So what I did was ask the secretary of the Army to just look at this kind of technology.”

Maffei was asked about the ladders in reaction to a story about them published by The Washington Post on Monday.

Taxpayer groups and budget experts said the appearance of the ladder language in the bill has the same intent as an earmark. Congress banned earmarks in 2011 over concerns that lawmakers were interfering in the budget process and steering pork back to their districts for political gain.

The groups also said that the move was a waste of the Army’s time because the ladder language would require the Army secretary to brief Congress on the benefits of the ladders.

“There’s no money attached to this, so by the rules of the House it is not an earmark,” Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, told The Post. “But it’s certainly a precursor to an earmark, or something designed to achieve the same purpose in the long run.”

But Maffei said Tuesday that there is nothing wrong with that.

“I do think there needs to be some sort of better disclosure,” he told “You shouldn’t just be able to put provisions in bills that spend federal dollars in your district just for its own sake. That said, though, we may have gone too far in the sense that even if something is in your district, and it makes sense, you should certainly be allowed to draw attention to it.”

Christian Davenport covers federal contracting for The Post's Financial desk. He joined The Post in 2000 and has served as an editor on the Metro desk and as a reporter covering military affairs. He is the author of "As You Were: To War and Back with the Black Hawk Battalion of the Virginia National Guard."
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