February 8, 2012

Congress works around earmark ban

The more things change, the more they stay the same:

Members of Congress may no longer be able to direct federal money to projects back home because of a moratorium on legislative earmarks, but that has not stopped them from trying.

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.

“We thought we’d gotten rid of earmarks,” said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a budget watchdog group in Washington that is part of the coalition. “But it looks like Congress has just moved on to other methods that are less transparent than the old way, like creating these slush funds.”