Earmark Reform Bills

From OpenCongress Wiki

Jump to: navigation, search

This page is part of the Transparency Hub project.
Add what you know.



The following is an aggregation of resources regarding efforts to reform earmark practices gathered by the Sunlight Foundation. At the bottom of the page is a list of some Sunlight blogposts on this topic.

Earmark Reform Timeline

12/11/2006 - House and Senate Announce Earmark Moratorium

Sen. Byrd and Rep. Obey announce plan for earmarks moratorium until new House and Senate rules are enacted.

"There will be no Congressional earmarks in the joint funding resolution that we will pass. We will place a moratorium on all earmarks until a reformed process is put in place. Earmarks included in this year's House and Senate bills will be eligible for consideration in the 2008 process, subject to new standards for transparency and accountability. We will work to restore an accountable, above-board, transparent process for funding decisions and put an end to the abuses that have harmed the credibility of Congress."

1/5/2007 - House Rules Now Require Online Disclosure of Member Earmark Requests

The House of Representatives adopts new rules as part of H Res 6, which requires The rules require:

  • Each appropriations bill be accompanied by online publication prior to vote of a list identifying each earmark and the Member who requested it
  • Each earmark must be backed by a public letter from the requesting member, which identifies the entity receiving the funds and its address, what the earmark does, and a certification available on the internet 48 hours before a vote on the floor that the Member (or member’s spouse) will not benefit financially from the earmark 

1/15/2007 - Earmark Moratorium Put Into Effect

The House and Senate declare any language about earmarks not in legislation should have no effect on the FY 2007 (continuing) appropriations bill; they also rescinds earmarks and thereby put an earmark moratorium into effect via H J Res 20.

9/14/2007 - Senate Rules Now Require Online Disclosure of Member Requesting earmarks

The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (S.1) includes a Senate rules change that puts into effect earmark disclosure rules in Section 521. The Senate rule parallels the House’s rule, and requires:

  • Each appropriations bill be accompanied by online publication prior to vote of a list identifying each earmark and the Member who requested it
  • Each earmark must be backed by a public letter from the requesting member, which identifies the entity receiving the funds and its address, what the earmark does, and a certification available on the internet 48 hours before a vote on the floor that the Member (or member’s spouse) will not benefit financially from the earmark

2/1/2008 - Bush Executive Order 13457 Orders Agency to Ignore Non-Statutory Requests

President Bush issued Executive Order 13457 that, among other things, required earmarks to be included in the text of bills voted upon by congress, requiring agencies to ignore earmark requests made in other ways (except in certain instances). See the CRS Report on his Executive Order for further detail.

EO 13457:

  • Required the number and cost of earmarks be reduced, that their origin and purposes be transparent, and that they be included in the text of bills voted upon by the congress and presented to the president.
  • Ordered executive agencies to not commit, obligate, or expend funds on the basis of earmarks included in any non-statutory source (including committee reports), except when required by law or when the agency makes the determination that the transaction has merit under statutory criteria or other merit-based processes.
  • Indicates that requests from Members (or their staff) must be in writing and be made publicly available by the receiving agency within 30 days of receipt of the communication (with exceptions).

1/6/2009 - House & Sen. Approps. Committees Require Members to post Request on Own Websites

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees issue a press release on new requirements that:

  • Members must post information on their project requests on their websites at the time the request is made.
  • Earmark disclosure tables must be made publicly available the same day as the House or Senate subcommittee markup
  • There is now a cap of 1% of discretionary budget for earmarks

3/11/2009 - Obama's Remarks on Earmark Reform

President Obama's remarks on earmark reform.

"These principles begin with a simple concept: Earmarks must have a legitimate and worthy public purpose. Earmarks that members do seek must be aired on those members' websites in advance, so the public and the press can examine them and judge their merits for themselves. Each earmark must be open to scrutiny at public hearings, where members will have to justify their expense to the taxpayer.
Next, any earmark for a for-profit private company should be subject to the same competitive bidding requirements as other federal contracts. The awarding of earmarks to private companies is the single most corrupting element of this practice, as witnessed by some of the indictments and convictions that we've already seen. Private companies differ from the public entities that Americans rely on every day –- schools, and police stations, and fire departments.
When somebody is allocating money to those public entities, there's some confidence that there's going to be a public purpose. When they are given to private entities, you've got potential problems. You know, when you give it to public companies -- public entities like fire departments, and if they are seeking taxpayer dollars, then I think all of us can feel some comfort that the state or municipality that's benefitting is doing so because it's going to trickle down and help the people in that community. When they're private entities, then I believe they have to be evaluated with a higher level of scrutiny.
Furthermore, it should go without saying that an earmark must never be traded for political favors.

And finally, if my administration evaluates an earmark and determines that it has no legitimate public purpose, then we will seek to eliminate it, and we'll work with Congress to do so."

3/11/2009 - House Approps. Imposes Competitive Bidding & 20-day Review

The House Appropriations Committee issued a statement that:

  • Requires, after an earmark is submitted, that the appropriate Executive Branch agency have 20 days to review the project to ensure that the earmark is eligible to receive funds and meets goals established in law
  • Requires, for any earmark intended to be directed to a for-profit entity, that the Executive Branch must ensure the earmark will be awarded through a competitive bidding process

1/27/2010 - Obama Calls for Unified Website With All Earmark Requests

President Obama calls for earmark transparency in the State of the Union address:

“I'm also calling on Congress to continue down the path of earmark reform. Democrats and Republicans. Democrats and Republicans. You've trimmed some of this spending, you've embraced some meaningful change. But restoring the public trust demands more. For example, some members of Congress post some earmark requests online. Tonight, I'm calling on Congress to publish all earmark requests on a single Web site before there's a vote, so that the American people can see how their money is being spent.”

3/10/2010 - House Approps. Bans For-Profit Earmarks

The House Appropriations Committee announced the Committee will not consider earmarks directed to for-profit entities.

3/10/2010 -- Senate Approps. Chairman Disagrees With For-Profit Ban

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Inouye issues a release where he deemed the House Appropriation’s ban on for-profit earmarks “quizzical.”

3/11/2010 - House Republican Caucus Self-Imposes Ban on Earmarks

House Republicans issue a release on their agreement that no member of that caucus will request an earmark. This is often described in the press as a one-year earmark moratorium, although it is unclear to me why it would expire in one year; not all members of the caucus are complying.

"Resolved, that it is the policy of the Republican Conference that no Member shall request a congressional earmark, limited tax benefit, or limited tariff benefit, as such terms are used in clause 9 of rule XXI of the Rules of the House for the 111th Congress.”

3/15/2010 - Senate Rejects 1 Year Earmark Ban

The Senate rejects one year earmark ban 29-68; it was considered as S Amendment 3452

7/28/2010 - Senate HSGAC Committee refers "Earmark Transparency Act" to Full Senate 11-5

The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee approved the "Earmark Transparency Act of 2010" 11-5 at a markup meeting, sending the legislation to the full Senate for a vote.

10/13/2010 - Rep. Eric Cantor Calls for Republican Congress to Eliminate Earmarks

See this editorial in Politico.

10/19/2010 - Anti-Recovery Act Reps. Still Seek Money 

View this Center for Public Integrity project.

While the [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] passed through Congress without any traditional earmarks, lawmakers have worked behind the scenes, cajoling agencies to secure stimulus money for their favored projects for constituents and donors.

11/12/2010 - Reps. John Boehner and Eric Cantor Announce Republican Conference Will Vote on Earmarks Ban

Joint press release issued on 11/12/2010:

"Earmarks have become a symbol of a dysfunctional Congress and serve as a fuel line for the culture of spending that has dominated Washington for too long. Next week the House Republican Conference, including all of our newly elected Members, will vote on a measure that would impose an immediate ban on earmarks at the start of the 112th Congress. We welcome President Obama’s remarks on earmark reform, and we call upon him to urge Congressional Democrats to hold a vote next week on a similar measure. Furthermore, if the President is committed to real earmark reform, he could demonstrate that immediately by agreeing to veto any spending measure this year or next that includes earmarks."

11/13/2010 President Obama Reiterates Call for Earmark Reform"

President's Weekly Address on 11/13/2010, where he reiterated call for earmark transparency & announced release of new data:

"But as we work to reform our budget, Congress should also put some skin in the game. I agree with those Republican and Democratic members of Congress who’ve recently said that in these challenging days, we can’t afford what are called earmarks. These are items inserted into spending bills by members of Congress without adequate review.
Now, some of these earmarks support worthy projects in our local communities. But many others do not. We can’t afford Bridges to Nowhere like the one that was planned a few years back in Alaska. Earmarks like these represent a relatively small part of overall federal spending. But when it comes to signaling our commitment to fiscal responsibility, addressing them would have an important impact.
As a Senator, I helped eliminate anonymous earmarks and created new measures of transparency so Americans can better follow how their tax dollars are being spent. As President, time and again, I’ve called for new limitations on earmarks. We’ve reduced the cost of earmarks by over $3 billion. And we’ve put in place higher standards of transparency by putting as much information as possible on earmarks.gov. In fact, this week, we updated the site with more information about where last year’s earmarks were actually spent, and made it easier to look up Members of Congress and the earmarks they fought for.
Today, we have a chance to go further. We have a chance to not only shine a light on a bad Washington habit that wastes billions of taxpayer dollars, but take a step towards restoring public trust."

11/15/2010 - Senator McConnell Comes Out in Support of Earmarks Moratorium for 112th Congress

From a November 15, 2010 press release:

"I will join the Republican Leadership in the House in support of a moratorium on earmarks in the 112th Congress."

"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."

"With Republican leaders in Congress united, the attention now turns to the President. We have said we are willing to give up discretion; now we’ll see how he handles spending decisions. And if the president ends up with total discretion over spending, we will see even more clearly where his priorities lie. We already saw the administration’s priorities in a Stimulus bill that’s become synonymous with wasteful spending, that borrowed nearly $1 trillion for administration earmarks like turtle tunnels, a sidewalk that lead to a ditch, and research on voter perceptions of the bill."
"Congressional Republicans uncovered much of this waste. Through congressional oversight, we will continue to monitor how the money taxpayers send to the administration is actually spent. It’s now up to the President and his party leaders in Congress to show their own seriousness on this issue, to say whether they will join Republican leaders in this effort and then, after that, in significantly reducing the size and cost and reach of government. The people have spoken. They have said as clearly as they can that this is what they want us to do."

1/25/2011 - President Obama promises to veto earmarks in the State of the Union

President Obama vows to veto any bill containing earmarks. See the full transcript of his address here.

In the coming year, we will also work to rebuild people's faith in the institution of government. Because you deserve to know exactly how and where your tax dollars are being spent, you will be able to go to a website and get that information for the very first time in history. Because you deserve to know when your elected officials are meeting with lobbyists, I ask Congress to do what the White House has already done: put that information online. And because the American people deserve to know that special interests aren't larding up legislation with pet projects, both parties in Congress should know this: if a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it.

111th Congress Earmarks Reform Bills


To provide for audits of programs, projects, and activities funded through earmarks. HR 113. Introduced by Rep. Fortenberry on 1/6/2009.

A bill to provide greater accountability of taxpayers' dollars by curtailing congressional earmarking, and for other purposes. S. 162. Introduced by Sen. Feingold on 1/6/2009.

To cap discretionary spending, eliminate wasteful and duplicative agencies, reform entitlement programs, and reform the congressional earmark process. HR 311. Introduced by Rep. Brady on 1/8/2009.

Amending the Code of Official Conduct in the Rules of the House of Representatives to strengthen the reporting requirements for Members who request earmarks. H.Res. 85. Introduced by Rep. Flake on 1/26/2009.

Amending the Rules of the House of Representatives to provide for earmark reform. H. Res. 100. Introduced by Adam Putnam on 1/28/2009.

To amend the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 to provide for the expedited consideration of certain proposed rescissions of budget authority. H.R. 1294. Introduced by Rep. Ryan on 3/4/2009.

A bill to amend the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 to provide for the expedited consideration of certain proposed rescissions of budget authority. S. 524. Introduced by Sen. Feingold on 3/4/2009.

A resolution to amend the Standing Rules of the Senate to ensure that all congressionally directed spending items in appropriations and authorization legislation fall under the oversight and transparency provisions of S. 1, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007. S. Res. 63. Introduced by Sen. McCaskill on 3/4/2009.

To amend the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 to provide for the expedited consideration of certain proposed rescissions of budget authority, and for other purposes. HR. 1390. Introduced by Rep. Buchanan on 3/9/2009.

To provide earmark reform in the House of Representatives. H.Res. 276. Introduced by Rep. Nunes on 3/23/2009.

Raising a question of the privileges of the House. H.Res. 312. Introduced by Rep. Flake on 4/1/2009.

To prohibit the inclusion of earmarks in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010. HR 1996. Introduced by Rep. Flake on 4/21/2009.

To amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to prohibit an authorized committee of a candidate who is a Member of Congress from accepting contributions from any entity for which the candidate sought a Congressional earmark. HR 2038. Introduced by Rep. Hodes on 4/22/2009.

Amending the Rules of the House of Representatives to strengthen the public disclosure of all earmark requests. H.Res. 440. Introduced by Rep. Cassidy on 5/14/2009.

To amend the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 to prohibit the consideration in the House of Representatives or the Senate of measures that appropriate funds for earmarks to private, for-profit entities. HR 2512. Introduced by Rep. Flake on 5/20/2009.

Amending the Rules of the House of Representatives to prohibit earmarks to for-profit entities. H.Res 614. Introduced by Rep. Quigley on 7/7/2009.

To amend the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 to limit the annual cost of appropriation earmarks and to make them more predictable, equitable, and transparent. HR 3233. Introduced by Rep. Lummis on 7/16/2009.

To amend the Rules of the House of Representatives and the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 to increase earmark transparency and accountability, and for other purposes. HR 3268. Introduced by Rep. Reichert on 7/20/2009.

Amending the Rules of the House of Representatives to provide greater transparency on earmark requests. H. Res. 687. Introduced by Rep. Alexander on 7/28/2009.

To establish the Joint Select Committee on Earmark Reform, and for other purposes. H.Con.Res. 201. Introduced by Rep. Tiahrt on 10/15/2009.

To amend sections 33 and 34 of the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974, and for other purposes. HR 3791. Introduced by Rep. Mitchell on 10/13/2009. Note: Section 6 of the legislation prohibits using any funds appropriated to carry out this Act for a congressional earmark.

A bill to control Federal spending now. S. 1808. Introduced by Sen. Feingold on 10/20/2009.

To reform Federal budget procedures, to impose spending and deficit limits, to provide for a sustainable fiscal future, and for other purposes. HR 3964. Introduced by Rep. Hensarling on 10/29/2009.


Amending the Rules of the House of Representatives respecting the treatment of earmarks in conferences between the House and the Senate. H.Res 1502. Introduced by Rep. Akin on 7/1/2010.

A bill to establish an earmark moratorium for fiscal years 2010 and 2011. S 2990. Introduced by Sen. DeMint on 2/4/2010.

To amend title 31, United States Code, to increase transparency and accountability for earmarks, and for other purposes. HR 4560. Introduced by Rep. Kratovil on 2/2/2010.

Establishing an earmark moratorium for fiscal year 2011 H.Res 1101. Introduced by Rep. Flake on 2/23/2010.

A resolution amending the Rules of the House of Representatives to require a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner to hold an explanatory public meeting prior to the submission of congressional earmark requests; to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. H. Res. 1147. Introduced by Rep. Speier on 3/9/2010.

A bill to provide fiscal discipline through a freeze on spending and budget process reforms. S. 3026. Introduced by Sen. Bayh on 2/23/2010.

A resolution amending the Rules of the House of Representatives to ban congressional earmarks, limited tax benefits, and limited tariff benefits; to the Committee on Rules. H. Res. 1176. Introduced by Rep. Hodes on 3/12/2010.

A resolution amending the Rules of the House of Representatives to prohibit congressional earmarks, limited tax benefits, and limited tariff benefits; to the Committee on Rules. H. Res. 1177. Introduced by Rep. Minnick on 3/12/2010.

Amending the Rules of the House of Representatives to increase openness and transparency in the annual appropriations process as it relates to earmarks. H. Res. 1221. Introduced by Rep. Chaffetz on 3/25/2010.

A bill to require Congress to establish a unified and searchable database on a public website for congressional earmarks as called for by the President in his 2010 State of the Union Address to Congress. S. 3335. Introduced by Sen. Coburn on 5/11/2010.

To amend the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 to require Congress to establish a unified and searchable database on a public website for congressional earmarks. H.R. 5258. Introduced by Rep. Cassidy on 5/11/2010.

A bill to provide tighter control over and additional public disclosure of earmarks. S.3475. Introduced by Sen. Bennet on 6/10/2010.

To require the establishment of a commission on earmark reform, to consolidate and streamline the grants management structure of the Federal Government, and for other purposes.H.R. 5755. Introduced by Rep. Sestak on 7/19/2010.

Amending the Rules of the House of Representatives to require that Members' official websites include congressional earmark requests and video presentations for requests submitted to committees. H. Res. 1542. Introduced by Rep. Pingree on 7/20/2010.

To amend the Rules of the House of Representatives and the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 to require that public hearings be held on all earmark requests in the district of the Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner making the request, and to further increase earmark transparency and accountability. H.R.5997. Introduced by Rep. Turner on 7/30/2010.

A bill to reform earmarking and increase transparency and accountability for all expenditures authorized by Congress and all executive agencies of the Federal Government; to the Committee on Rules and Administration. S.3939. Introduced by Sen. Inhofe on 11/15/2010.


This list does not include:

  • When the issue of earmarks are addressed through a question of privilege 
  • When the issue of earmarks are addressed through an amendment to legislation
  • Bills that contain earmark requests themselves

Earmark Evasion

Pre-Earmark Ban

Lawmakers Find Other Paths To Special-Interest Funding - The Washington Post, Sept. 9, 2007

Rep. Rahm Emanuel was extremely proud when the House passed a major spending bill early this year that contained not a single special-interest project. "This is an earmark-free bill," the Illinois Democrat jubilantly declared on Feb. 1. A week later, however, he and 18 other Illinois lawmakers signed a letter to the Energy Department to "express our strong support" for a bio-energy project at the University of Illinois. Emanuel also sent his own letter to the department seeking "support and assistance in securing" $500,000 for Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago and $750,000 for the Illinois Institute of Technology. Such requests for specific institutions are commonly known as earmarks. But Emanuel, a member of the Democratic House leadership, declines to call them that. "Letter-writing is not an earmark," he said in an interview.

Anti-Recovery Act Reps. Still Seek Money - Center for Public Integrity, Oct. 19, 2010

Even before the ban, certain lawmakers wanted to avoid supporting earmarks, so they found other ways to get money sent to their district.

[Rep. Pete] Sessions suggested to the Center that he did not want his “strong, principled objection to the bill to prevent me” from getting his congressional district its share of the massive spending pot.
While the [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] passed through Congress without any traditional earmarks, lawmakers have worked behind the scenes, cajoling agencies to secure stimulus money for their favored projects for constituents and donors.

Lawmakers Finance Pet Projects Without Earmarks - New York Times, Dec. 27, 2010

Though Mr. [Rep. Mark Steven] Kirk and other Republicans thundered against pork-barrel spending and lawmakers’ practice of designating money for special projects through earmarks, they have not shied from using a less-well-known process called lettermarking to try to direct money to projects in their home districts.
Mr. Kirk, for example, sent a letter to the Department of Education dated Sept. 10, 2009, asking it to release money “needed to support students and educational programs” in a local school district. The letter was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the group Citizens Against Government Waste, which shared it with The New York Times.
The district, Woodland School District 50, said it later received about $1.1 million in stimulus money.

Post-Earmark Ban

Democratic Sen. McCaskill finds House defense bill riddled with earmarks - McCLatchy, Dec. 11, 2011

House Republicans banned earmarks, a top symbol of congressional profligacy, after they won control of the chamber last fall in a wave of voter anger over excessive government spending. But more than half of the amendments to this year's House Department of Defense authorization bill were earmarks, according to Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, a leading congressional critic of the practice.

Despite Earmark Ban Lawmakers Try to Give Money to Hundreds of Pet Projects - New York Times, Nov. 29, 2011

Members of the House and the Senate attempted to pack hundreds of special spending provisions into at least 10 bills in the summer and fall, less than a year after congressional leaders declared a moratorium on earmarks, congressional records show.

Republicans Sought Clean-Energy Money for Home States - New York Times, Sept. 19, 2011

On the Senate floor and the television airwaves, Senator Mitch McConnell has lambasted the Obama administration over what he has described as its failed efforts to stimulate new jobs through clean-energy projects backed with billions of dollars in federal loans or other assistance.
But Mr. McConnell, of Kentucky, is one of several prominent Republicans who have worked to steer federal money to clean-energy projects in their home states, Energy Department documents show.
“The White House fact-tracked a half-billion-dollar loan to a politically connected energy firm,” Mr. McConnell said Thursday in remarks on the Senate floor.

Earmarks Provide Oversight, Reduce Corruption - Iowa State Daily, Jan. 11, 2011

The answer to a ban on earmarks, as described by NPR and The New York Times, is letter-marking and phone-marking, the quality of which is determined by the influence held by individual legislators. But this influence is completely personal. It does not go with a representative or senator’s seat, as his voting power and privileges on the floor of his House do. Instead the influence necessary to procure funds, absent earmarking, is the prestige which a legislator has built up over the course of his career.

Sen. Inouye Bows to Earmark Ban - The Hill, Feb. 1, 2011

The end of earmarks will make it tougher for lobbyists, though budget experts say interests and lawmakers will still find ways to direct spending to favored projects. For example, “letter-marking” and “phone-marking,” in which lawmakers contact agency officials to ask that spending be directed to certain projects, is expected to continue or even increase.

Earmarks gone, Pork forever - Richmond County Daily Journal, Feb. 1, 2011

“So you’re saying that earmarks will be back?” asked [ABC’s Jonathan] Karl. “Of course they’ll be back,” [Senate Majority Leader] Reid asserted. But even if they are not, Obama, Reid, and their Republican friend Senator Mitch McConnell can figure out many different ways to reward legislators with special funds for their districts. Here is just one of the ways it worked in North Carolina. A powerful legislator wants a project funded in his district, but the earmark/special provision pathway is closed. So he has a private conversation with a state agency head and says, “If I get $1 million extra in your budget this year, can you use some of those funds to support a wonderful project in my district? They wink at each other; the deal is done.

Earmark Ban Clouds Projects - Argus Leader, Feb. 6, 2011

Congress has done away with congressionally directed spending, known as earmarks, as part of new spending reforms. Tuesday's announcement by Senate Democrats that they would join the House in a two-year earmark moratorium made the move official.
Now, universities scouring for extra research money or counties looking for highway help must make their cases to the relevant federal agencies instead of to the lawmakers who advocated for the organizations in the past.
The ban on earmarks has left organizations scrambling to readjust their strategies, such as expanding lobbying efforts and increasing their contact with the agencies.

FAA Bill Full of Politics as Usual - Politico, Feb. 7, 2011

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced an amendment to the bill to increase the number of national airspace system testing sites from four to 10, an early stage in fulfilling a promise he made to his home state...
Erich Zimmermann, a senior policy analyst for the anti-earmark group Taxpayers for Common Sense, said the Wyden maneuver is an earmark by another name. “It’s clearly going to benefit specific areas, but it’s not necessarily an earmark by their rules, by their definition,” said Zimmermann. “The narrow definition in the bill is an attempt to direct the funds where the senator wishes them to go — a practice we will probably see more of in the earmark moratorium as members do their best to direct funds to areas in their own states or districts.”
Pro-earmark senators agree with Zimmermann’s assertion, saying the ban won’t change behavior — just words. And that’s not a bad thing, they argue.
Landrieu told POLITICO there are several other ways senators can deliver money for special projects besides traditional earmarks, for example through federal programs targeted at certain states. Members can also put in requests, known as “phone-marking” or “letter-marking,” with federal agencies.....

Military Spending will thwart Earmark Ban - The Hill, Feb. 8, 2011

Defense budget experts say the campaign to banish earmarks from Congress is unlikely to succeed because lawmakers will find other ways to direct money to military projects in their districts.
Military projects are too important in too many states and districts for an earmarks ban to halt targeted spending by lawmakers, former Senate congressional defense aides and analysts said. Plus, a ban on earmarks would do little to lower the deficit, leading some to predict lawmakers might even scrap the idea of banning them.

The Earmarks Paradox - National Journal, Feb. 13, 2011

Lawmakers who want to steer money toward their states and districts can still put in requests to federal agencies, a process called “phone-marking” or “letter-marking."
They also can write bills that fail to name a pet project but that apply narrowly to only one funding recipient. Some lawmakers will also fight to preserve money for highways, water resources projects, and controversial weapons systems such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter alternate engine—battles that will now move to the fore.

“Money will find a way, and it will be far less transparent,” said [former Rep. James (R-NY)] Walsh. He added: “It’s part of the genetic makeup of a legislator to try to find a way to help your community.”

There is No Earmark Moratorium - Sunlight Foundation, Feb. 14, 2011

People may want an appropriations process that exists in a vacuum, but none exists. Lawmakers can and do try to influence agency decisions on spending. There may even be lobbyists pushing lawmakers to do this. What is needed is not the elimination of one form of directed spending, but disclosure of all forms of directed spending.
The truth is that Congress chose the easy route on dealing with earmarks. The moratorium is temporary and cosmetic. Lawmakers will still direct spending as it is their prerogative to do so. Only now they won't disclose how they are doing it.
The real route of reform would start with the creation of a permanent, centralized earmark database, including both earmarks approved and earmarks requested. They could follow this by approving the disclosure of lobbying contacts. This would allow the public to see the contacts between lawmakers and earmark lobbyists to discourage bad behavior.

Despite Earmark Ban, Boehner Brings Home Pork-Barrel Defense Project That Pentagon Doesn’t Want - Think Progress, Feb. 14, 2011

As CAP Senior Fellow Scott Lilly reveals in a new analysis, “No, He Wouldn’t—Would He?,” Boehner and House Republicans appear to have included an earmark-in-all-but-name for the new Speaker’s district in the newly released House Appropriations Continuing Resolution (CR). The CR includes massive cuts to important programs like Head Start and LIHEAP, but one thing it doesn’t cut is $450 million stashed away for the construction of a Joint Strike Fighter engine the Pentagon doesn’t even want. Lilly finds that a “big portion of the funds” will go to Cincinnati, Ohio (where Boehner grew up) and Dayton, Ohio (the “largest city in his congressional district”). Pointing out that the money will go General Electric and Rolls Royce Group plants that fall within these cities, Lilly concludes that the money “looks, feels, and smells very much like an earmark“:

Without saying 'earmark,' Sens. Boxer, Inhofe solicit requests for projects - The Hill, Feb. 22, 2011

The debate over earmarks is far from finished in the Senate, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) signaled in a recent letter to colleagues.
Boxer and Inhofe have asked senators to submit requests for specific projects in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), a multiyear authorization bill, despite a pledge from President Obama to veto all legislation that includes earmarks.

As GOP slashes budget, lawmakers who built careers on earmarks must re-brand - Washington Post, Feb. 23, 2011

In a post-earmark ban era, lawmakers are forced to find ways to re-brand themselves.

Lawmakers have long seen themselves in part as human funnels whose primary job is to bring home federal money. Now, the GOP wants its members to define themselves by what they can reduce, defund or terminate.
The real spending debate is still to come: If the Senate passes a budget with smaller reductions, the House will have to compromise - or risk shutting down the government.

Members Rethink Earmark Ban - Roll Call, March 15, 2011

Democrats and Republicans alike are concerned that the ban will be enforced too broadly, and they want to revisit the definition of what an “earmark” is under House rules. The earmark ban hasn’t really been an issue for Members since it was adopted last November, but appropriators fear they may run into problems as they look to tackle 2012 spending measures and other project-based bills.

Lawmakers Find a Path Around Earmarks Ban - New York Times, March 16, 2011

But, as it turns out, lawmakers still have a way to get their favorite projects funded: appealing directly to federal agencies for money that is already available. And agency officials seem to be paying attention, though an executive order has directed agencies not to take on projects based on the recommendations of members of Congress. In some cases, that may be the result of the clout certain lawmakers have over how much money an agency receives.

Despite moratorium, Lungren staff met with firm seeking earmark - Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group, March 30, 2011

Six months after Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., joined a House Republican voluntary moratorium on requesting earmarks, his staff met with executives from a cyber security company that requested an earmark to explain their appropriations process, according to internal company emails from the firm released by a group of hackers known as Anonymous.

CREW: The Prince of Pork Still Reigns - Business Wire, April 26, 2011

Despite a ban on earmarks in the House of Representatives, the man long dubbed the “Prince of Pork,” Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), can continue to bring home the bacon for a network of organizations based in his district. In Rep. Rogers’ Neighborhood, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) exposes this wide-ranging and exceedingly complex web in unprecedented detail, and shows how Rep. Rogers has created an empire that can still garner federal funding, despite the earmark ban.

GOP Frosh Take Care of Districts in Defense Bill - Associated Press, May 23, 2011

Hard-charging Republicans who rallied voters last year with cries of "Stop the spending, ban the earmarks" are quietly offering a more familiar Washington refrain now that they're in Congress - not in my backyard.

House Earmarks Morph into ‘Programmatic Requests’ - Washington Post, June 20, 2011

Instead of its old habit of soliciting earmarks, it now asks members to provide “programmatic requests” ahead of subcommittee markups....
First introduced as an earmark and continued as such year after year, it is now considered a program — even though the administration does not request it. Therefore, any congressional request that it be continued is a programmatic request. Get it?

Freshman Republicans Lobby Federal Agencies For Millions Amid Spending Critiques- Huffington Post, July 5, 2011

As lawmakers prepare to cut trillions of dollars from the budget as a condition to raising the nation's debt ceiling, the story of the Cates Landing project underscores the dilemma that faces many members of the Republican-run House and the freshmen class in particular. Federal spending is derided as nothing short of a threat to the country's future -- unless, of course, it happens to be directed at that congressman's home district.

Cost-Cutters, Except When the Spending Is Back Home - New York Times, July 19, 2011

Freshman House Republicans who rode a wave of voter discontent into office last year vowed to stop out-of-control spending, but that has not stopped several of them from quietly trying to funnel millions of federal dollars into projects back home...
An examination of spending bills, news releases and communications with federal agencies obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows that nearly two dozen freshmen have sought money for projects that could ultimately cost billions of dollars, while calling for less spending and banning pork projects.

Congress Appears to Be Trying to Get Around Earmark Ban - New York Times, February 5, 2012

A coalition of budget watchdog groups says that in the absence of the age-old practice of Congressional earmarks, the legislative tools that let members attach pet projects to bills, lawmakers appear to have found a backdoor method: special funds in spending and authorization bills that allow them to direct money to projects in their states.

K Streeters Adjusting to Loss of Earmarks - Roll Call, April 19, 2012

Winning Congressional earmarks wasn’t just big business on K Street. It was the business, and most everyone downtown had a piece of it. That is, until a series of scandals and reforms to the appropriations process closed some lobbying shops, gutted the revenue of others and, at least temporarily, stopped the practice of steering taxpayer funds for local projects.
But as appropriators take up the first round of fiscal 2013 spending bills this week, K Street will again be close to the action. The remaining players, niche specialists in finding ways to secure federal funding for their clients, say they have survived earmark bans by working both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, meeting with executive branch agency bureaucrats as frequently as they do with Congress.

Michele Bachmann pushes for highway project, but steer clear of 'earmark' label - Politico, March 21, 2013

A moratorium on congressional earmarks isn't stopping Rep. Michele Bachmann from pushing for federal funding for a home-state highway.  The Minnesota Republican held an event in St. Paul for expanding Interstate 94 in her district, and has been lobbying the House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) to fund $25 million for the project. A Minnesota newspaper quoted her this week saying the initative was gaining "traction" with the chairman.  But it's not clear what that "traction" could mean in the face of the moratorium against congressionally directed spending on specific projects, and on Thursday she told POLITICO that her conversations with the powerful Pennsylvanian aren't about asking for an earmark, but "raising awareness."

Revealed: Letters From Republicans Seeking Obamacare Money - The Nation, March 21, 2013

Now letters produced by a Freedom of Information Act request reveal that many of these same anti-Obamacare Republicans have solicited grants from the very program they claim to despise. This is evidence not merely of shameless hypocrisy but of the fact that the ACA bestows tangible benefits that even Congress’s most extreme right-wing ideologues are hard-pressed to deny to their constituents.

Select Sunlight Foundation Blogposts and Statements on Earmarks

Sunlight's resources on earmarks is available here: http://sunlightfoundation.com/topics/earmarks/

A short url link to this page: http://bit.ly/earmark

Resource: The House of Representatives required all House Members to publish their earmark requests online for FY 2010 by April 4, 2009. Sunlight compiled links to the earmark request pages from all House Members (that we could find), and indicated whether the member submitted an earmark request. (Taxpayers for Common Sense has a useful database of the same information.)

BlogPosts: A list of all Sunlight Blogposts on earmarks. Here are some posts of particular interest:

  • "Obama Administration May Take on Earmarks" -- John Wonderlich ([1])
  • "There is No Earmark Moratorium" -- Paul Blumenthal (2/14/11)
  • "Baby Steps on the Earmark Transparency Act" -- Lisa Rosenberg (7/28/10)
  • "Organizations Call on Members of Congress to Support the Earmark Transparency Act" -- Lisa Rosenberg (6/16/2010)
  • "Study: Earmarks, federal spending follow political power, inhibit economic growth" -- Bill Allison (6/2/2010)
  • "Disappearmarks: Buffalo’s Switcheroo saves earmark" -- Lisa Chui (6/1/2010)
  • "White House and Influence Reform Anew" -- a White House fact sheet from the 2010 State of the Union that lists earmark reform as one of the President's goals. (1/27/2010
  • "Washington Watch Rolls-Out Earmark Crowd-Sourcing Tool" (7/10/2009)
  • "Earmark My Words" -- A list of the top ten earmark requests for FY 2008 and 'word pictures' of what they most commonly talk about. (6/10/2009)
  • "Closing the Earmark Disclosure Loopholes" -- Sunlight cheers on Cassidy-Speier (5/14/2009); see also this statement from the Republican Policy Committee (5/15/2009)
  • "Listing 'Earmarks' in Lobbying Disclosure" -- What you find when you search lobbying disclosure reports for the word 'earmark' (5/13/2009)
  • "Earmark Disclosure Diaspora" -- a discussion of the House and Senate's new earmark rules. (1/7/2009)


  • "Earmarks Could Help Candidates in Midterms" (Pew Research Center for People and the Press 8/2/2010)

Earmark Databases

  • White House Earmarks Database (via OMB)
  • WashingtonWatch.com Earmarks Database (link)
  • Taxpayers for Common Sense Earmarks Database (link)