Today, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist stressed the importance of keeping earmarks out of politics in a Washington Examiner article, “Grover Norquist: For 8 years, the GOP held the line against earmarks. Now corrupt Democrats might bring them back.”
Norquist also signed a coalition letter led by the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste to House Republicans urging them to keep the House Republicans rules ban on earmarks.
Americans for Tax Reform has long supported the 2011 earmarks ban because it reduces corruption in the federal government.
Earmarks are taxpayer-funded favors that members of Congress bargain over in exchange for their votes on a bill. These projects are often not helpful to the country or their constituents, and the cost to taxpayers is high.
The most famous example of an earmark is the “bridge to nowhere.” The bridge to nowhere project began in 2005 when some members of Congress from Alaska requested funding to build the Gravina Island Bridge in exchange for their votes. The bridge was going to connect the town of Ketchikan with a population under 9,000 to the Island of Gravina, an island with an airport and a population of 50. Despite the few number of residents and the availability of a ferry, taxpayers were going to fund the bridge for $320 million.
While Congress put an end to this bridge project in 2015, other pork projects have been approved.
Citizens Against Government Waste lists the worst pork projects from 1991 to 2018 in its “Pork Hall of Shame.” Some examples include grasshopper research in 1999 for $7.3 million, combating Goth culture in 2002 for $273,000, and wool research in 2010 for $4.1 million.
In fact, in 1999, 40% of the spending in the military construction appropriations bill that year was earmarks.
Earmarks have also led to the downfall of members of Congress, such as Pennsylvania Representative Chaka Fattah. CBS Philly reported that grant money from NASA had repaid part of an “illegal $1 million loan from a wealthy friend to prop up his [Fattah’s] failed 2007 campaign for Philadelphia mayor.”
Some members of Congress today though argue that earmarks are the only way to accomplish anything in this political climate and that transparency will eliminate the corruption. However, these arguments have been made before, and the corruption has continued. Also, even with transparency, the wasteful spending continues.
Americans for Tax Reform, therefore, urges members of Congress to refrain from restoring earmarks.