NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Congressional Earmarks Used to Fund Projects Near Lawmakers' Properties

February 9, 2012

A recent investigation by the Washington Post has looked further into the practice of earmarking by federal congressmen and women, wherein legislators obtain federal funding for special projects within their respective districts.  Though it is an ethics violation for a member of congress or their families to be the sole beneficiary of an earmarked project, it is not considered a conflict for them to be one of only a few beneficiaries.

The investigation found that a large amount of the earmarked funding has been designated to projects with a near-direct benefit for the lawmaker.

  • 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.
  • 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.A
  • U.S. senator from Alabama directed more than $100 million in federal earmarks to renovate downtown Tuscaloosa near his own commercial office building.
  • A congressman from Georgia secured $6.3 million in taxpayer funds to replenish the beach about 900 feet from his island vacation cottage.
  • A representative from Michigan earmarked $486,000 to add a bike lane to a bridge within walking distance of her home.

Source: David S. Fallis, Scott Higham and Kimberly Kindy, "Congressional Earmarks Sometimes Used to Fund Projects Near Lawmakers' Properties," Washington Post, February 6, 2012.

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