Ghandi vs. Robin Hood

(or, Whether to Accept Federal $ through a Congressional Earmark)

Had an unexpected conversation this week–with a DC lobbyist (referred by an angel investing group we’ve been working with) who seems absolutely convinced we would be a “slam dunk” for some of the millions of federal dollars congress will allocate to various non-profits through this summer’s appropriations bills.

“Some” meaning on the order of 10x what we’ve spent on everything we’ve done so far—enough to finish building out the site, update the iPhone app, create a Facebook app, start our fellowship program, host a social entrepreneurship training conference, and establish our evaluation endowment. (Not to mention start paying some of our employees a livable wage…)

So, what’s the catch, right? There isn’t one—except if you consider the fact that the money would come through earmarks in the bill a catch.

The IDEALIST says that earmarks were originally developed as way to empower members of congress to bypass the crippling bureaucracy of the executive branch agencies to fund time-sensitive projects for the good of the people.

The CYNIC says that earmarks are a symbol of all that’s wrong with government—a loophole exploited by corrupt politicians and lobbyists too mired in the morass of personal and political favors to even see it’s wrong.

The REALIST says that such diametric thinking is almost always an oversimplification and that the practice is still used in both those ways to accomplish both those ends.

The PRAGMATIST says that if they’re going to toss money around (and they are), we might as well be open for the pass, especially if we can catch it without getting our hands dirty.

Those are the voices screaming at each other in my head. What do you think?