Pork Barrel Politics

Do earmarks lead to waste and corruption?


Ever since the country was founded, congressional lawmakers have curried favor with hometown voters by providing funds — known as earmarks — for local projects and favored firms. Recently, however, the number of earmarks has skyrocketed from 2,000 projects worth $10.6 billion in 1998 to 15,584 items totaling $32.7 billion in 2004. Defenders of such spending argue it aids valuable local projects like parks and after-school programs that might otherwise go unfunded. But critics warn that such pork barrel politics also fuels corruption. Former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif., recently pleaded guilty to accepting $2.4 million in bribes to direct earmarked funds to defense contractors. Opponents of uncontrolled earmarking also complain that local “pork” projects take funds away from national needs. A current defense spending ...

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