Congressmen have a long-term a strategy of tacking boondoggle spending projects onto bills unrelated to these projects. These unrelated projects are called “earmarks.”
These projects bring federal money into their districts. This is the process called “bringing home the bacon.” It is also called “pork.”
Earmarking is a widespread practice. It has gotten worse in recent years. There is no organized opposition to it in Congress.
The earmarks seem small in relation to a specific bill. But they add up.
The Washington Post recently ran a report in earmark projects since 2008. It identifies some choice examples.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS): obtained a $900,000 earmark to resurface roads where he and his daughter own two homes. “I didn’t say, ‘Do the street that I live on,” Rep. Thompson protested when the Washington Post confronted him. “The earmark went to the county. It had no designation on it whatsoever, and that was it.”
Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-MD): secured approximately $4.5 million for an interstate interchange that leads to Rep. Bartlett’s home, his 104-acre farm, and rental properties that earn him $150,000 annually. “He was being an advocate for what was presented to him as the highest priority,” the congressman’s press secretary Lisa Wright said. “Coincidentally, this was around two miles from his farm.”
Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX): bagged $665,000 in taxpayer funds to expand a road 600 feet away from his family’s food processing plant, H&H Foods. “It helps everybody,” Rep. Hinojosa told the Washington Post. “The only way it made sense to handle this tremendous population growth and avoid problems for the school buses that go through that intersection was to widen it.”
Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA): scored $750,000 for a new bridge three blocks away from a 7,000-square-foot building he and his wife own as well as Columbia Basin Paper & Supply, a janitorial supply company he previously owned that is now run by his brother. “It never crossed my mind,” Rep. Hastings told the Washington Post. “Every business in Pasco will benefit by that.”
Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MA): landed a $187,000 earmark to replenish a shoreline 90 miles away from his home district near a beach that, coincidentally, he and his wife own two condominiums by that generate $15,000 in rental income. Rep. Ruppersberger said questioning the proximity of his properties to the project was “ridiculous.” “That’s a stretch to say that thing’s going to benefit me.”
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA): secured $6.3 million to replenish a beach 900 feet away from a $142,900 cottage he owns. “It’s absurd to suggest that this benefits me,” Kingston protested to the reporters. “The beach doesn’t improve the real estate of a house, unless it’s on the beach. The only thing that changes in value is the beachfront property.”
Rep. John W. Olver (D-MA): obtained $5.1 million in earmarks to restructure a road 209 feet from Rep. Olver’s 15-acre home and several adjoining properties he and his wife own. “I had no monetary interest whatsoever in this project,” Rep. Olver said. “I had nothing to with the design. I was never notified of any of the hearings. I had no involvement whatsoever.”
Rep. Candice S. Miller (R-MI): obtained a $486,000 earmark that helped add a 14-foot bike lane within walking distance of her house. “People earmark for all kinds of things,” Rep. Miller said when asked about the project. “I’m pretty proud of this; I think I did what my people wanted. Should I have told them, ‘We can never have this bike path complete because I happen to live by one section of it’? They would have thrown me out of office.”
Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY): secured $7 million in earmarks, a portion of which went to overhaul streets around the corner from a bank where he is director emeritus and owns a $1-$5 million stake in the bank’s holding company and also narrowed the street he lives on to slow traffic. “Congressman Rogers sees no conflict of interest in helping local community leaders achieve their goals for growth,” the congressman’s chief of staff Michael R. Higdon told the Washington Post.
How much money are we talking about? In 2010, about $32 billion. How many earmarks were there? About 11,000. So, they don’t seem like much individually, but they add up.
The earmarks represent an attitude: “Don’t cut spending.” This attitude produces $1.2 trillion a year deficits.
The earmarks get lost in the spending. The spending always increases.