Earmarks, called by former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) the “currency of corruption,” are specific line items in a spending bill, such as an appropriations or transportation bill, for a project or program. Not only corruptive in nature, they are also, as the late former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) astutely put it, “the gateway drug to spending addiction.”
After Republicans faced widespread backlash to their rampant use of earmarks through 2010, the House Republican Conference signed off on a ban of all earmarks. At their peak in the mid 2000s, total earmarks reached nearly 14,000 in a single year (2005), costing upwards of $30 billion (2006). When Democrats took control of the House last Congress, earmarks did not make a return. Now, however, Democratic leadership is seriously considering bringing back earmarks.
Proponents of earmarks argue that these extra spending provisions funding often-useless projects “grease the wheels” for legislation by persuading individual members to come on board for the sake of earmarked spending for their districts, and come at a small monetary price to taxpayers. They refuse to acknowledge the corruption and spending addiction that comes with earmarks, not to mention the public opposition to the pernicious practice.
This bill represents the correct path forward on earmarks – banning them outright – certainly not bringing them back. As Rep. Budd said, “Nothing epitomizes what’s wrong with Washington more than pork barrel spending in the form of congressional earmarks. It’s an insult to taxpayers to resurrect such a wasteful and corruptive system. Passing the Earmark Elimination Act would show the American people that the House is committed to ending business as usual in Washington.”
Earmarks are the antithesis of transparency and accountability, and must not be brought back into the congressional process. For these reasons, I urge you to contact your representative and ask him or her to cosponsor the Earmark Elimination Act, H.R. 1086.
Adam Brandon, President, FreedomWorks