Open Thread: Earmarks as Means of Personal Enrichment?

The publishing of Peter Schweizer's Throw Them All Out seems to have inspired some of the editors and writers at the Washington Post who published this week an exposé on how many members of Congress are directing money in federal earmarks to projects that have some direct connection to themselves. It's not necessarily indicative of corruption but the data is fascinating to take a look at. From the Post's summary of its findings:

Thirty-three members of Congress have directed more than $300 million in earmarks and other spending provisions to dozens of public projects that are next to or within about two miles of the lawmakers’ own property, according to a Washington Post investigation.

Under the ethics rules Congress has written for itself, this is both legal and undisclosed.

The Post analyzed public records on the holdings of all 535 members and compared them with earmarks members had sought for pet projects, most of them since 2008. The process uncovered appropriations for work in close proximity to commercial and residential real estate owned by the lawmakers or their family members. The review also found 16 lawmakers who sent tax dollars to companies, colleges or community programs where their spouses, children or parents work as salaried employees or serve on boards. [...]

Earmarks have long been controversial, with the focus on spending that unduly favors campaign donors or constituents. The Post’s review is the first systematic effort to examine the alignment of earmarks with lawmakers’ private interests.

Earmarks are a fraction of the federal budget, and the numbers uncovered by The Post are relatively small in the scheme of the overall Congress, but the behavior by lawmakers from both parties points to a larger issue at a time when confidence in Capitol Hill is at an all-time low.

There's much more at this link. It's worth clicking through just to see how widespread the problem is. We find it a bit odd that the Post does not provide a Democrat /Republican breakdown but it's still must-reading. What a welcome change to see some investigating into the nation's government that isn't about trying to expose the military or law enforcement. The case in favor of earmarks seems even more tenuous than before.

Open Thread

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