When Congress passed its $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill, with House approval in less than 24 hours, they were able to cram 5,000 earmarks totaling $9 billion into the final version of the bill.
According to the New York Times, that $9 billion total includes 3,682 earmarks totaling $5 billion from Democrats, 1,014 earmarks totaling $3.4 billion from Republicans, and 266 earmarks totaling $609 million on a bipartisan basis.
According to the New York Times, some of the largest earmarks in this bill include $132 million to the Alabama State Port Authority from Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), and $121 million for an aircraft maintenance hangar at a South Carolina Marine Corp Base from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Shelby, the Ranking Member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, netted a cool $551 million in total earmarks for his home state, the highest total amount out of all Members of Congress.
Earmarks, the currency of corruption, are special expenditures designated for each Member of Congress’ state or district. That way, each member can go back to their constituents and show them the money they brought back. Most of the funds are wasted on pet projects for the powerful, like tearing down vacant hotel buildings.
Each Member of Congress must disclose their earmarks on their website. Open the Books has mapped a previous round of Congressional earmarks.
Out-of-control earmarks are a bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats alike take advantage of handouts to their district or state, and spending bills continue to grow as a result.