GOP Supports Earmark Ban … for Now

During the 111th Congress (fiscal year 2010) Senator McConnell was responsible for over $113 million in earmarks; over $14.5 million went to his campaign contributors.

Senator Inhofe, who earlier scoffed that an earmark ban “doesn’t accomplish anything,” spent another $73.3 million on earmarks.

But these two reluctant supporters of an earmark ban are small potatoes compared to President “cracking down on wasteful earmark spending” Obama, who was responsible for $20.9 billion in earmarks for fiscal year 2010. More importantly, nearly all of it (over $20.5 billion) is categorized under “No recipient identified,” which means only a forensic accountant may be able to determine where your taxes went.

Elected officials spent a total of $37.8 billion on 11,856 earmarks for major budget legislation like Defense ($9.6 billion)  and Housing and Urban Development ($3.4B).

The House spent a total of $10 billion on earmarks; $1.3 billion of this went to campaign contributors. The Senate spent another $11.2 billion; $918M went to their “sponsors.”

Politicians slipped in about $42 billion worth of earmarks for fiscal year 2010. (Due to their hidden nature, that’s an estimate.) This may be a drop in the bucket compared to a $1.5 trillion deficit. But if, as Senator McConnell stated, banning earmarks is so “small,” it’s reasonable that everybody support this modest proposal as an easy place to start reining in the budget.

There’s some good news: Speaker-in-waiting Boehner was one of the few representatives with no earmarks. His leadership may influence many House members, including freshmen congressmen.

Unfortunately, analyzing the fiscally responsible list reveals more bad news: 253 of 258 (98%) Democrat representatives and 140 of 177 (79%) Republican representatives spent your tax dollars on earmarks. In the Senate, 97% of Democrats and 88% of Republicans supported earmarks, too.

As Lord Acton said in 1887: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” With all the money, power, and interns floating around Washington, D.C., it’s imperative that constituents stay involved, and hold federal office holders accountable for their actions.