An “earmark” is another word for a pork project. United States Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana has been one of America’s biggest defenders of earmarks throughout his career. Citizens Against Government Waste, a non-partisan group that tracks earmarks, sponsors a “No Pork Pledge,” that offers a suitable definition of what an earmark is. An earmark is a project that meets any of the following criteria: • • • • • • • Requested by only one chamber of Congress Not specifically authorized Not competitively awarded Not requested by the President Greatly exceeds the President’s budget request or the previous year’s funding Not the subject of congressional hearings Serves only a local or special interest


While it’s true that some “earmarks” or congressional pork do not add to the cost of a bill, often they are used as tools to get horrible pieces of legislation passed. During the time when the growth of earmarks exploded, Congress passed dozens of pieces of legislation that exponentially grew the size of government and our national debt. Speaker John Boehner, who recently proposed a Highway Bill that contains no earmarks, commented that “It's a lot harder to win votes when you don't have goodies to pass out.”1 Exactly – Over the years Republicans and Democrats have used earmarks to buy votes, and the consequence was billions of dollars worth of often questionable projects paid for by Hoosier tax dollars.

EARMARKS EXPLODE, AS DOES AMERICA’S DEBT2 Year 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 Cost in $ (Billions) 3.1 2.6 6.6 7.8 10 12.5 14.5 13.2 12 17.7 18.5 20.1 22.5 22.9 27.3 29 # of Projects 546 892 1,712 1,318 1,439 958 1,596 2,143 2,839 4,326 6,333 8,341 9,362 10,656 13,997 9,963 Debt (Trillions) 3.67 4.064 4.411 4.692 4.973 5.224 5.413 5.526 5.656 5.674 5.807 6.228 6.783 7.379 7.932 8.506

1 2

Washington Examiner, 2/9/12 Data used in this graph can be found at and

Since earmarking exploded during the Clinton years, literally dozens of scandals involving earmarks have been reported. Because earmarks are often given to special interests, not competitively awarded, or are requested by only one Member of Congress, their use increases the likelihood of an appearance of impropriety, a conflict of interest, or an outright corruption scandal. For example: The House of Representatives voted to disclose earmark requests for the first time in 2006 as a direct result of the scandal involving disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff: “The House voted yesterday to shed more light on narrow-interest tax and spending legislation called earmarks, an incremental step toward openness that ended the prospect for a more sweeping overhaul of federal lobbying laws this year…The larger ethics effort began with fanfare in January, prompted by a series of congressional scandals that started with the guilty plea of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff on fraud and conspiracy charges.”3 Washington DC-based PMA Group and its founder, Paul Magliocchetti, were indicted for reimbursing donors. Magliocchetti authorized “PMA to make salary and bonus payments designed to disguise the facts that the payments were earmarked for political contributions”… “The PMA Group…specialized in procuring spending earmarks for its clients.”4 Earmarks played a central role in the bribery scandal surrounding convicted ex-Representative Duke Cunningham (R-CA): “Wilkes was an obscure California contractor and lobbyist until his name surfaced last year as one of two defense contractors alleged to have given Cunningham $2.4 million in cash and other benefits in return for Cunningham's steering government business their way. One of Wilkes's companies received more than $80 million in Pentagon contracts over the past decade that stemmed from earmarks that Cunningham slipped into spending bills.”5 The Washington Post reported in 2012 that Congressional earmarks are sometimes used to fund projects near lawmakers’ properties: “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. Thirtythree 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.”6

There have been countless other examples of lawmakers requesting, at a minimum, earmarks of dubious value and, at worst, potentially in exchange for campaign contributions.

3 4

Washington Post, 9/15/06 Politico, 8/6/10 5 Washington Post, 2/21/06 6 Washington Post, 2/6/12

Notorious Earmark Example #1 THE BRIDGE TO NOWHERE

Above: the Ketchikan and Gravina Island Ferry In 2005, the non-partisan watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense issued a report describing what would become known as the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska: Ketchikan, Alaska, a town with less than 8,000 residents (about 13,000 if the entire county is included) will receive hundreds of millions of federal dollars to build a bridge to Gravina Island (population: 50). This bridge will be nearly as long as the Golden Gate Bridge and taller than the Brooklyn Bridge. … At $315 million, the Gravina Bridge will cost $23,649 per Ketchikan Gateway Borough resident. In comparison, Boston’s Big Dig project—a massive tunneling and highway project and the poster child of government waste—cost less than one-tenth this amount on a per resident basis.7

In 2005, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) offered an amendment to strike funding for the Bridge to Nowhere. Senator Lugar opposed the amendment.


Taxpayers for Common Sense,


Above: Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) From Time Magazine It's been dubbed the "Monument to Me" — a planned $30 million academic center supported by longtime New York Rep. Charles Rangel and named, not so surprisingly, for Rep. Charles Rangel. The Harlem Democrat raised hackles after securing a $1.9 million earmark for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York. When a more junior colleague objected to the idea of lawmakers sponsoring things bearing their own names, the 78-year-old Congressman responded "I would have a problem if you did it, because I don't think that you've been around long enough...." Rangel ruffled more feathers by reportedly soliciting donations for the center from companies with business before the powerful Ways and Means Committee — which he chairs. He also stands accused of working to preserve a tax shelter for an oil drilling company whose chief executive pledged $1 million to the center; Rangel says his support for the legislation had nothing to do with the company or its executive's pledge. It hasn't helped Rangel's case that he's been caught up in a number of ethical and legal tangles in recent months, including his failure to report $75,000 in rental income from a villa in the Dominican Republican, alleged violations of New York regulations on rent-stabilized apartments, and reports of inappropriately taking a tax break on a home in Washington, D.C. Rangel has acknowledged some oversights but insisted he's "done nothing morally wrong," and welcomed a House ethics investigation that's expected to wrap up early in 2009. But it seems his patience for scrutiny into the subject has a limit: pressed by a reporter on his fundraising tactics for the academic center, Rangel responded, "I really think you're being annoying now.” 8

In 2007, Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) offered an amendment to strike funding for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service. Senator Lugar opposed the amendment.

Senator Lugar voted against an amendment to cut $50 million for the National Animal Research Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.9 Senator Lugar voted against an amendment to cut $5 million for an outlet at Devil’s Lake in North Dakota.10 Senator Lugar voted against an amendment to cut $14.75 million for the Yazoo Backwater Pump project in Mississippi.11 Senator Lugar voted against an amendment that would have cut $2.5 million for a canola oil fuel cell initiative, $1 million for Shakespeare in America military communities, $1 million for the control of brown tree snakes, $1 million for the Academy for Closing and Avoiding Achievement Gaps and $500,000 for renovating a hangar at the former Griffis Air Force base site in New York.12 Senator Lugar voted against blocking earmarks for the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Neb.; the Stand Up for Animals shelter in Westerly, R.I.; and the Seattle Art Museum's sculpture park in Seattle, Wash.13


Senate Roll Call Vote #138, 2002 Senate Roll Call Vote #22, 2003 11 Senate Roll Call Vote #23, 2003 12 Senate Roll Call Vote #285, 2004 13 Senate Roll Call Vote #260, 2005

2004 Total number of earmarks reaches 10,656, valued at 22.9 billion dollars.

2005 Total number of earmarks reaches a new record of 13,997, valued at 27.3 billion dollars. 2005 Senator Lugar votes against defunding the Bridge to Nowhere.16 2007 For the first time, the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate require online


disclosure of earmark requests.17
2007 Senator Lugar votes against an amendment to the Transportation Appropriations bill that

would bar funding for earmarks in the bill until all U.S. bridges classified as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete by the Federal Highway Administration's bridge inspection program are repaired.18
2007 Senator Lugar votes against an amendment to the Transportation Appropriations Bill that

would bar earmarks for bicycle paths or trails.19
2007 Senator Lugar votes against blocking funding for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public

Service at the City College of New York.20
2008 Senator Lugar votes against a one-year earmark moratorium.21

Note: Senator Lugar was named “Porker of the month” by Citizens Against Government Waste in 2008 for voting against a one-year earmark moratorium.22
2010 Senator Lugar votes against banning earmarks when the budget is out of balance.

2010 Senator Lugar votes against a three-year earmark moratorium – one of only eight Republicans to do so. 24 2012 Senator Lugar votes against a permanent ban on earmarks – one of only thirteen

Republicans to do so.25

14 15 Ibid 16 Senate Roll Call Vote #262, 2005 17 H.R. 6, 2007:; S.1, 2007: 18 Senate Roll Call Vote #330, 2007 19 Senate Roll Call Vote #333, 2007 20 Senate Roll Call Vote #373, 2007 21 Senate Roll Call Vote #75, 2008 22 23 Senate Roll Call Vote #60, 2010 24 Senate Roll Call Vote #255, 2010 25 Senate Roll Call Vote #8, 2012

OUT OF TOUCH Lugar’s support for Earmarks puts him at odds with most of the Republican Party

Republican leaders on banning earmarks…
Republican House Speaker John Boehner on Earmarks: “Earmarks have become a symbol of a Congress that has broken faith with the people. This earmark ban shows the American people we are listening and we are dead serious about ending business as usual in Washington.”26 Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell on Earmarks: “Banning earmarks is another small but important symbolic step we can take to show that we're serious, another step on the way to serious and sustained cuts in spending and to the debt.”27 Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney on Earmarks: “With our national debt skyrocketing past $15 trillion, it is a moral imperative to rein in government spending. Passing a permanent ban on earmarks is an important step toward securing our future and restoring fiscal sanity in Washington.”28 Indiana’s Junior Senator Dan Coats on Earmarks: An Earmark ban is “an important first step in addressing the deep financial crisis our nation faces.”29

...but what about Indiana’s Senior Senator and Democratic Leader Harry Reid?
Indiana Senator Richard Lugar on Earmarks: “Bogus issue”30 Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: “I’ve done earmarks all my career, and I’m happy I’ve done earmarks all my career.”31


Office of Speaker John Boehner, 27 CBS News. 11/15/10, 28 Mitt Romney for President, Press Release, 2/9/12, 29 Coats for Indiana, 11/17/10, 30 WIBC, 2/20/12, 31 Politico, 1/31/12

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful