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Earmark Moratorium Needed to Curb Excessive Spending by Federal Government

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Colin Hanna, President, Let Freedom Ring
James C. Miller III, former Reagan Budget Director
J. Kenneth Blackwell, former Treasurer, State of Ohio
Grover Norquist, President, Americans for Tax Reform
Karen Kerrigan, President, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council
Edwin Meese III, former Attorney General
Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council
Susan Carleson, Chairman & CEO, American Civil Rights Union
Jim Martin, Chairman, 60 Plus Association
Herman Cain, President, THE New Voice Inc.
William Wilson, President, American for Limited Government
David McIntosh, former Member of Congress, Indiana
Craig Shirley, Chairman, Citizens for the Republic
Richard Viguerie, Chairman,
Wendy Wright, President, Concerned Women for America
Alfred Regnery, Publisher, American Spectator
Mathew D. Staver, Founder & Chairman, Liberty Counsel
Karl Ottosen, United States Federation of Small Businesses


Earmark Moratorium Needed to Curb Excessive Spending by Federal Government

RE: Republicans in the House of Representatives recently adopted an immediate and unilateral one-year moratorium on all earmarks. Senate Republicans have not yet followed suit. Democrats in the House took a small step in the right direction in March announcing a ban on new earmarks requested towards for-profit companies. However, they are allowing earmarks to continue to flow towards non-profits, and most troubling, earmarked handouts to left-wing non-profit agencies that waste taxpayer money.

“[I]t will be a scene of eternal scramble among the members, who can get the most money wasted in their State; and they will always get most who are meanest.”

–Thomas Jefferson, criticizing the earmarking of a Post Road, 1796

“Such a view of the Constitution would have the effect of giving to Congress a general power of legislation instead of the defined and limited one hitherto understood to belong to them, the terms ‘common defense and general welfare’ embracing every object and act within the purview of a legislative trust.”

–James Madison, upon vetoing a bill to use surplus earnings from the Second Bank of the United States to pay for highway projects

ACTION: As a first step towards reform, we urge you to speak out in support of an immediate and unilateral one-year ban on earmarks requests. In a time of recession and record deficits, Republicans and Democrats alike need to understand that they cannot waste taxpayer money. And if your Congressman is a Republican in the House, we urge you to contact and thank them for their courageous pledge to not request earmarks.

ISSUE-IN-BRIEF: “Earmarking” is not just the normal legislative process or Congress using its “power of the purse.” The term “earmark” does not attach to every Congressional funding decision. Earmarking is a phenomenon whereby legislators direct pork barrel spending to their districts outside of a statutory formula-driven or competitive award process for a federal program. The growth in earmarking has directly coincided with the growth in government.

Despite Speaker Pelosi’s promise to end earmark excesses, Fiscal 2010 spending bills contained 9,129 earmarks worth $16.57 billion. According to the Appropriations Committee’s estimate, the ban on for-profit earmarks would have cut about 1,000 such projects, $1.7 billon, in fiscal year 2010, but that is not enough. Without a comprehensive ban, earmarks can still be directed towards a Bridge to Nowhere, ACORN, and other not-for profit wasteful endeavors can still be pursued such as the $5 million earmark for the Presidio Heritage Center in Speaker Pelosi’s district, or the $2 million earmark for oyster research in Majority Leader Hoyer’s district. It’s not just Democrats – a Republican Senator earmarked $250,000 in federal money to a University for a “Meteorology Institute” in his name. Congress never extensively earmarked until the 1990s; it is neither necessary nor traditional to buy elections with pork. For instance, in 1970, there were 12 earmarks in the defense spending bill. In 2010, there were 1,752 earmarks. Clearly, the practice of putting thousands of earmarks in spending bills, many for projects of a purely local nature, did not originate with the Founding Fathers – it is a recent phenomenon. Congressmen need to know that your vote cannot be “bought” with an earmark. The Constitution gives the Congress the power of the purse, but the American people have lost faith in its excessive use of it. Only through an immediate and unilateral moratorium will we be able to thoughtfully fix the system so as to keep the current taint on the legislative process from becoming permanent.


(All organizations listed are for identification purposes only)