According to this website, 65% of our representatives in the House and Senate have committed acts that violate the public's trust and which run on
sticky ground when it comes to their ethics. Misuse of campaign funds, earmarking in the millions (otherwise known has rewards), private purchases
with public funds, false accounting, abuse of power for personal gains, vote purchasing, and misuse of funds are just some of the accusations brought
against many of those sitting in office as we speak.
Of these accusations, very little, if any at all, could be proven in court, due to the bureaucracy and definitional vagueness of the system by which
our politicians work in. One of the more ambiguous parts of these systems, and possibly the most damaging to the integrity of our elected leaders, is
the Earmark. An earmark is typically an amount of congressional money, or funds, as designated by the lawmaker who requested for it, allocated to a
certain 'project' within a certain bill, without the necessity to subject the proposed allocation to public scrutiny or even congressional review.
On a side note, an option (or addition) to direct money allocation from congressional funds is tax exemption, as said before, to any project or entity
The money that is allocated is actually money that is supposed to be 'invested' into a specific agency in the government, so that the agency has the
funds to support itself and its own projects, which are supposed to be designed for the benefit of the public. The money is quite literally subtracted
from this large sum of agency money by lawmakers in order to pay the expense that is earmarked in a bill. And remember, congressional funds are
accumulated from tax payer money.
Earmarks are anonymous. Any lawmaker could add an earmark to a bill, and if passed, no one would know for what purpose it was there, other than the
assumption that this earmark had something to do with the bill.The potential monetary rewards of an earmark can be used to persuade a congressman that
would have otherwise voted against the bill to in fact vote for the bill, as he who votes in favor of the bill is payed in return with the money
allocated to the subject, the 'project'. As an example of an earmark, this is an excerpt from the website above (note that Paybacks is the accusation,
Paybacks: Duncan Hunter has adopted a practice of rewarding donors with taxpayer money. According to his own earmark disclosures, Hunter's FY2010
requests include $26 Million for General Atomic Aeronatical Systems
after Duncan received $25,700 in campaign donations (ref: Center for
Responsive Politics). He simillarly earmarked $3 Million for TREX Enterprises after recept of $9350 in donations.
An earmark works by requesting money for something specific. If you requested money for NASA as a whole, that would be considered a budget increase.
If you requested money for new chairs at NASA, that is an earmark. How this can be abused, is if the lawmaker who requested the earmark, owned a chair
company, or had investments in a chair company, and you can see how this circle of corruption is formed. This is a very elementary overview of how the
earmark is used and abused. When it comes to our lawmakers, you can be sure that earmarks are used on the post-graduate level, though many of you may
speak out in rejection of that.
By reporting earmarks requested
for certain individuals or organizations, such as schools, NPO's, companies, and even specific individuals, and
by not requesting the earmark themselves, a lawmaker can detach themselves from the recipient of the earmark, effectively cutting off any substantial
proof that the congressman/ woman had intentions to and benefited directly from the approval of an earmark. By withholding their own judgement and
support, there is little to suggest that the lawmaker has anything to gain, and is only requesting the earmark on behalf of the subject or project. A
simple get-around you might observe. By refusing to disclose which earmark the member supports, and by throwing up as many earmarks as possible, it
makes it impossible to suppose which is directly supported by the member themselves. The only requirement is that they defend why the earmark ought to
be approved, usually by taking the case in point and suggesting that the money or tax exemption is necessary for the project. This is a recent
Two Lawmakers Skirt Earmark Disclosure Rule, Says Watchdog By Nick Schwellenbach | April 28, 2010, 8:00 am Updated: 9/9/2010, 11:31 am |
A new earmarks guessing game has emerged as some lawmakers thwart the intent of House disclosure rules by keeping the public in the dark about the
specific earmarks those lawmakers requested of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, according to a spending watchdog group. At least two
Democratic members of Congress have posted on their websites over 300 earmarks sought by companies, individuals, non-profit groups, and universities,
rather than identifying the specific earmarks each member is supporting. “It’s a cynical twist on the rule,” said Steve Ellis, vice president
at the non-profit Taxpayers for Common Sense, which tracks earmarks.
House Appropriations Committee rules only require that members of the House report the earmarks for pet projects they submit to the committee. By
posting the entire wish-list of earmark requests submitted by their constituents and others, Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio and Rep. Carolyn Cheeks
Kilpatrick of Michigan are violating the spirit of the new disclosure rules, Ellis says.
Neither Fudge or Kilpatrick indicate on their congressional websites which earmarks they support and want approved by the House Appropriations
Fudge, like Kilpatrick, who was written about here about last week, “refuses to disclose which earmarks she actually requested. Instead she lists
everything that was asked of her and lets people guess as to what she might have sought,” said Ellis.
When asked for comment, Fudge’s spokeswoman pointed the Center to a statement made to The Cleveland Plain Dealer, in which Fudge said her actions
complied with House rules. All earmark requests were listed on the website to show “constituents the full range of appropriations requests received
so they know the true depth of community need and the complexity of arriving at a funding decision,” according to Fudge’s statement to the
Fudge is not a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, but Kilpatrick is.
“What makes Rep. Kilpatrick’s lack of transparency more surprising is that she is essentially flouting the rules established by the Chair of the
Committee on which she sits,” said Ellis. Kilpatrick is the junior member of the House Appropriations Committee whose chairman is Rep. David Obey,
Kilpatrick said in a comment to the Center, “I have not broken any rules related to posting appropriations requests on my Web site. The policy of
the U.S. House Appropriations Committee allows Members to list all requests received.”
In March, the House Appropriations Committee banned lawmakers from inserting earmarks that go to for-profit companies. The Democrats’ dramatic
action was intended to stop members from steering federal money for no-bid contracts to companies and their executives who often make large campaign
contributions. Earmarks accounted for nearly $16 billion in federal spending in the current fiscal year.
Earmark requests approved by the Appropriations Committee will be made known once the legislation containing the earmarks is reported out of the
Earmarks can also be used reversibly, where the lawmaker or agency requests the earmark for their own project, then using the money or tax exemption
to benefit the company or organization that would be directly involved in the project, or even those that have no real value to the proposed project.
Another way of avoiding disclosure is by changing the term 'earkmark' to 'budget increase' as what had been reported in this article:
Congress avoids earmark disclosure when funding its private jets
Posted by LegiStorm on Wednesday, August 05, 2009
The Pentagon may not have wanted them but members of the House Appropriations Committee managed to fund two additional private jets partially for
their own use, while also managing to avoid disclosure of these jets as legislative earmarks. Roll Call, which reported the funding, noted that the
move came after lawmakers scolded the CEOs of auto companies for flying private jets to a congressional hearing, turning private planes into a symbol
of Wall Street greed leading to the recession.
In all, the committee funded three Gulfstream jets for the Air Force's passenger air service, which transports VIPs such as members of Congress. The
Air Force had asked for one of the planes. The extra two that were funded were specficially assigned for Washington, D.C. area units - the same ones
responsible for transporting members of Congress. The two additional planes cost $132 million. Because the planes were for the Air Force's existing
passenger service, the committee didn't consider the funds an earmark, leaving the requesters with anonymity. Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common
Sense told Roll Call that such a move - calling funds a program increase rather than an earmark - is part of a larger trend to avoid public
So it is easy to see how an agency, department, or a company request for an earmark can be hidden under the term 'budget increase'. This type of
vagueness in definition has the potential to allow certain individuals, and more often than not, certain companies, to make almost direct profits from
a certain piece of legislation which would probably be in that entities best interest to begin with, as the earmark usually has to be relevant to the
issue at hand. The appropriations and conference committees can even slide earmarks into the reports that accompany the final bill. Since the other
lawmakers don't get the chance to amend these reports, they can't vote on these earmarks individually, and these allocations then are made into law
without a general agreement made beforehand.
We see how fickle regulations can be when regulators are the ones benefiting from their own manipulation of the regulations which they are supposed to
uphold. This sort of manipulation of fiscal allowance does not only get potentially unlawful bills to be passed, bills such as the latest Senate Bill
S510 which makes it illegal to grow your own food, increasing business for large agricultural companies and hiking potential state, local, and federal
revenues from fines and fees associated, but also allows massive amounts of money to be paid indirectly to those who voted in favor, as well
pay off the corporations who requested for the earmark and lobbied for the bill in the first place. Just note, 2009-2010 saw 16 Billion Dollars in
approved earmarks alone. And to think that personal gain ends there, you'd be deceiving yourselves. For now though, we are focused on the threat of
Earmarks promote the "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" type of attitude that is the ethical structure by which our legislators work today.This
is legal corruption in the United States, because with loop holes such as these two presented, money can flow freely from one party to another without
the legitimate scrutiny of a third. As long as everyone gets their due, no questions are asked. This my friends, is how the public gets duped,
edit on 27-11-2010 by asperetty because: (no reason given)