If you don’t read the print edition, you may have missed Les Blumenthal’s Sunday piece on Congressman Norm Dicks and earmarks, the mechanism by which members of Congress can direct spending outside the normal budget process.
The 6th District Democrat came out largely unscathed from a congressional ethics inquiry into the relationship between campaign contributions from a defense lobbyist and earmarks. As he assumes the gavel for the powerful defense budget subcommittee, Dicks is now supporting a ban on earmarks for private companies.
Dicks and Sen. Patty Murray are the undisputed earmark king and queen of the state’s delegation, and that wouldn’t change under the new rule. If it were in place, a for-profit earmark ban would have affected only a fraction of the 9,500 earmarks in last year’s budget. Most earmarks are dedicated toward federal, state and local government projects as well as non-profit groups.
A quick look at data from Taxpayers for Common Sense shows that the vast majority of the earmarks Dicks supported for the 2010 fiscal year went to governments or non-profits. Among the biggest beneficiaries were military installations, including Fort Lewis. The post is outside of his district boundaries, but Dicks uses his defense appropriation seat to benefit military projects throughout the state. Here’s a chart showing the $153 million in earmarks that went to the Army installation in the FY2010 budget.
|Brigade Complex, Incr 4||$102,000,000||Dicks|
|Health and Dental Clinic||$15,636,000||Dicks|
|SOF Support Company Facility||$14,500,000||Dicks|
|Fort Lewis-McChord AFB Joint Access||$9,000,000||Smith|
|Modified Record Fire Range||$4,100,000||Dicks|
|Live Fire Exercise Shoothouse||$2,550,000||Dicks|
|Women's Health Center Facility||$2,000,000||Smith, Cantwell, Murray|
I’ve put together a new searchable earmarks database on our SoundInfo section using the Taxpayers’ data crunch. It will give you a good idea of what types of projects benefit from earmarks.