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Budgets | Contracts - Awards | Issues - Political | Scandals & Investigations | USA

Looking at Earmarks: Legislators for Sale?

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(click to view full) Earmarks involve designating funds in spending legislation that must be used for a very particular purpose. While they can be a useful tool, they can also be a magnet for shady dealings and last-minute surprises. Indicted Naval ace and former Congressman Randy Cunningham’s [R-CA] activities revolved around earmarks, for instance. So, too, did the kerfuffle when Rep. Jack Murtha [D-PA] threatened a legislator who questioned his earmarks. Past US national defense budgets have included everything from renovations to Washington’s baseball stadium (based on the standings, a donation to hire players might have been better), to Utah watershed conservation, to the initial funding that got the war-defining Predator UAVs going. It’s a mixed bag. The question is, how to separate the venal from the vital? One way is to see location patterns. The non-partisan Sunlight Foundation, in in collaboration with Taxpayers for Common Sense, recently gave people the ability to see earmark beneficiaries overlaid on a Google Earth map, linked to additional data concerning each one. Another is to see patterns of contributions from earmark beneficiaries. On the House Armed Services Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation found that just 3 lawmakers (chair Jim Moran [D-VA], […]

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