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Wonderful Earmarks

There has been a huge backlash against earmarks in the federal budget. But it is only one percent of the budget and it provides vital motivators for legislators to move legislation forward. With years of a Congress that has earned the nickname of "Do Nothing", it might be time to reconsider the place of earmarks, and how they give legislators the opportunities to advocate for the causes and geographic areas that are care about the most. Then the Congress might earn a nickname of a "Do a lot of amazing things" legislative body.

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Wonderful Earmarks

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There has been a huge backlash against earmarks in the federal budget. But it is only one percent of the budget and it provides vital motivators for legislators to move legislation forward. With years of a Congress that has earned the nickname of "Do Nothing", it might be time to reconsider the place of earmarks, and how they give legislators the opportunities to advocate for the causes and geographic areas that are care about the most. Then the Congress might earn a nickname of a "Do a lot of amazing things" legislative body.

The Montana Sheep Institute

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This project has received has received over 3 million dollars since 2002. “The Montana Sheep Institute (MSI) is a cooperative project between Montana Wool Growers Association and Montana State University. The MSI is dedicated to developing and implementing nontraditional adjustment strategies that will increase the competitiveness of Montana’s lamb and wool in the world market. Our goal is to explore opportunities to increase the utilization of sheep in weed management programs and improve the profitability and competitiveness of the Montana Sheep Industry.”

Alder Planetarium and Astronomy Museum in Chicago

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Three congressmen from Illinois earmarked $900,000 as part of this updated Planetarium image projector. The rest of the $5 million dollar cost was covered by corporate donations.

Formosan Subterranean Termites Research "The Termite Institute"

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Mary Landrieu secured almost $3.5 million to fund this institute's study of termites. Termites cause more damage to property in the United States than tornados, windstorms, and hurricanes combined, adding up to 5 billion dollars worth of damage from these pesky insects.

Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Philadelphia

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Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Inc. in Philadelphia is a career education and preparation initiative for at-risk youth. It received a $85,000 grant secured by their two Pennslyvania Senators.

Firefighter Gear Safety Research Program

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Starch Republican leader Mitch McConnell appropriated $200,000 to this program to try to reduce safety risks and potential health risks to firefighters and other first responders by evaluating how the protective levels in firefighting gear change over time and to establish an appropriate age to retire firefighter protective gear.

Maple Syrup Research in Vermont

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$165,000 was earmarked for maple syrup research in Vermont. “Maple trees and products are a sizable U.S. export resource, with great unmet potential,” Leahy (Senator who earmarked the bill) spokesman David Carle said. “This industry generates nearly $200 million for Vermont’s economy alone. Maple sugar is the second-most economically-important agricultural product in Vermont, after dairy. These small, family-based businesses are deeply ingrained in the character and history of Vermont. The trees are also economically important to the entire Northeast region.”

Zombie earmarks

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Congress banned earmarks officially in 2012. But by 2015 there were many "zombie earmarks" hidden in funding bills. In the defense funding bills alone there were 56 of these totaling $2.3 billion dollars. Lawmakers have increasingly used deceptive tactics to make it difficult to track who is sponsoring this legislation.

Earmarks Can Be Consensus Buiders

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*Earmarks reclaim some authority to Congress in how discretionary federal spending is allocated, rather than relying solely on the Executive Branch.

*Eliminating earmarks takes away incentives for the parties to cooperate to pass appropriations bills on time.

*Earmarks can add leverage so that Congress can run more efficiently. Lawmakers have more incentive to pass laws.

Transparency and Accountability

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Here are five commonsense principles that might make the earmark process more transparent and accountable to the public. (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington)

*Members should not direct earmarks towards campaign contributors. Break the links between campaign contributionas and legislative action.

*Congressional staff should not be able to participate in fundraising activities, giving the impression that politics is for sale.

*Congress should create a unified, searchable, sortable, and downloadable database of all earmarks on a public website.

*The Government Accountability Office should regularly and randomly audit earmarked projects.

*Lawmakers should stand by their appropriation (aka earmark), certify that qualified recipients are doing the work, and be required to do these things by law.

Earmarks have a place in the Federal Budget

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Pigs can't fly, but they can swim. Earmarks and "pork barrel" spending do not have to be dirty words or figments of our imagination. They can work with the right intentions and structure.

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