government wConsidering that an earmark moratorium is in effect, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW)’s Pork Patrol sure seems to be uncovering a lot of earmarks.aste, debt, dnc, newt, elections

Considering that an earmark moratorium is in effect, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW)’s Pork Patrol sure seems to be uncovering a lot of earmarks.

When the one-year earmark moratorium was announced for fiscal year (FY) 2012, seasoned observers anticipated that earmarks would not disappear, but merely change shape.  Judging by the 15 appropriations bills that CAGW has analyzed thus far, this viewpoint has been corroborated.  Eleven of these bills contain earmarks, totaling 248 projects worth $9.5 billion.  While the number has substantially decreased compared to prior years, any earmark violates the moratorium.  Leading the way is the Department of Defense (DOD) bill, in which the Senate included 49 earmarks worth $2.9 billion and the House added 72 earmarks worth $3.9 billion.

The six Senate bills scrutinized by CAGW thus far have contained 142 earmarks worth $4.4 billion.  In addition to the bill funding the DOD, the Senate included $748.2 million in earmarks in the Energy and Water bill, $439 million in the Labor, Health and Human Services bill, $224.6 million in the Transportation bill, $115.4 million in the Agriculture bill, and $16.4 million in the Military Construction bill.

Five of the nine appropriations bills produced by the House have a total of 106 earmarks worth $5.1 billion.  In addition to the House DOD bill, the House earmarked $436.1 million in the Energy and Water bill, $368.4 million in the Commerce bill, $321.6 million in the Interior bill, and $56.8 million in the Agriculture bill.

In addition to continuing to fund earmarks, members of Congress have drastically reduced transparency.  Prior to FY 2008, most earmarks were contained in a single table, which usually included the account that was to fund the earmark and the city or state where the project was located.  From FYs 2008-2010, members were also required to attach their names to their earmark requests, and submit accompanying certification letters.  This period marked the zenith of earmark transparency.

Unfortunately, members of Congress have now reached the nadir of earmark information in FY 2012.  Senators and representatives no longer attach their names to earmarks.  In fact, the projects are no longer contained in a separate location apart from the text of the bill.  Many bills analyzed by CAGW do not contain tables at all.  Unearthing earmarks requires reading the bill line-by-line to identify projects where the House or Senate has appropriated money for a project that was not requested by the administration, where funding represents a substantial increase over the budget request, or which meets another of CAGW’s seven-point criteria.  Needless to say, this has dramatically lengthened the time necessary for detailed analysis of appropriations bills. 

It is clear that many members of Congress never took the earmark moratorium seriously.  In fact, members have reversed the progress of recent years by removing the methodology that previously provided a semblance of transparency.  Under the new rules, appropriations bills have undeniably become more opaque. 

Over the years, earmarks became the currency of re-election, and most observers predicted that the earmark moratorium would not last long.  After having witnessed earmarks continue during the moratorium, one wonders if members might not prefer the current system, where they still channel funding for earmarks, but without the cumbersome transparency of previous years.  As usual, the cynical view of Washington has proven correct.  Of course, if there were no earmarks and members really abided by the moratorium, this article would not have had to be published.

 

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