Earmark (politics)

Earmark (politics)

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In United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 politics, an earmark is a legislative (especially congressional
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

) provision that directs approved funds to be spent on specific projects, or that directs specific exemptions from taxes or mandated fees. The term "earmark" is used in this sense in several countries, such as the US and South Africa.

Earmarks come in two varieties: Hard earmarks, or "Hardmarks," found in legislation and Soft earmarks, or "Softmarks" found in the text of congressional committee reports. Hard earmarks are binding and have the effect of law; soft earmarks do not have the effect of law but by custom are acted upon as if they were binding. Typically, a legislator seeks to insert earmarks that direct a specified amount of money to a particular organization or project in their home state or district. Earmarks may be considered synonymous with "pork barrel
Pork barrel
Pork barrel is a derogatory term referring to appropriation of government spending for localized projects secured solely or primarily to bring money to a representative's district...

" legislation, although the two are not necessarily the same.

Definition


Congressional earmarks are often loosely defined as guarantees of federal expenditures to particular recipients in appropriations-related documents. The federal Office of Management and Budget defines earmarks as funds provided by Congress for projects or programs where the congressional direction (in bill or report language) circumvents Executive Branch merit-based or competitive allocation processes, or specifies the location or recipient, or otherwise curtails the ability of the Executive Branch to manage critical aspects of the funds allocation process.

Attempts have been made to define earmarks in ethics and budget reform legislation. However, due to the controversial nature of earmarks and the effects these definitions would have on congressional power, none of these has been widely accepted.

Despite the lack of a consensus definition, the definition most widely used was developed by the Congressional Research Service
Congressional Research Service
The Congressional Research Service , known as "Congress's think tank", is the public policy research arm of the United States Congress. As a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress, CRS works exclusively and directly for Members of Congress, their Committees and staff on a...

, the public policy research arm of the U.S. Congress:


"Provisions associated with legislation (appropriations or general legislation) that specify certain congressional spending priorities or in revenue bills that apply to a very limited number of individuals or entities. Earmarks may appear in either the legislative text or report language (committee reports accompanying reported bills and joint explanatory statement accompanying a conference report)."


In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 legislative appropriations process, Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 is required, by the limits specified under Article I, Section 9 of the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

, to pass legislation directing all appropriations of money drawn from the U.S. Treasury. This provides Congress with the power to earmark funds it appropriates to be spent on specific named projects. The earmarking process has become a regular part of the process of allocating funds within the Federal government.

Earmarking differs from the broader appropriations process in which Congress grants a yearly lump sum of money to a Federal agency. These monies are allocated by the agency according to its legal authority and internal budgeting process. With an earmark, Congress directs a specified amount of money from an agency's budget to be spent on a particular project. In the past Members of the Congress did not have to identify themselves or the project; however, as a result of recent reforms in Congress, earmarks are associated with requesting members in conference reports and members must certify that they and their immediate families have no direct financial interest in the earmark.

Earmarks have often been treated as being synonymous with "pork barrel
Pork barrel
Pork barrel is a derogatory term referring to appropriation of government spending for localized projects secured solely or primarily to bring money to a representative's district...

" legislation. Despite considerable overlap, the two are not the same: what constitutes an earmark is an objective determination, while what is "pork-barrel" spending is subjective. One legislator's "pork" is another's vital project.

In March 2010, the House Appropriations Committee implemented rules to ban earmarks to for-profit corporations. According to the New York Times, approximately 1,000 such earmarks were authorized in the previous year, worth $1.7 billion.

Defense


Scott Frisch and Sean Kelly point out that directing money to particular purposes is a core constitutional function of Congress. If Congress does not make a specific allocation, the task falls to the executive branch; there is no guarantee that the allocation made by executive agencies will be superior to Congress's. Presidents and executive officials can use the allocation of spending to reward friends and punish enemies. The process of earmarking has been substantially reformed since the beginning of the 110th Congress. Members of Congress must post all their requests on their websites and they must sign a certification letter (then put online) indicating that neither they nor their spouse has financial interest in the earmark request. Many members have instituted an applications process that their constituents must undergo for earmark requests. Finally, member-directed projects constitute less than 2 % of the federal budget.

There are also those who opine that "earmarks are good.". See Cheese Factories on the Moon
Cheese Factories on the Moon
Cheese Factories on the Moon: Why Earmarks are Good for American Democracy is a book by American political scientists Scott A. Frisch and Sean Q Kelly. The title of the book was inspired by a quote by conservative Republican and former Senator Phil Gramm, who said:The book focuses on congressional...

.

In popular culture


The Gravina Island Bridge
Gravina Island Bridge
The Gravina Island Bridge, commonly referred to as the "Bridge to Nowhere", was a proposed bridge to replace the ferry that currently connects the town of Ketchikan, Alaska, with Gravina Island, an island which contains the Ketchikan International Airport as well as 50 residents. The bridge was...

, popularly known as the "Bridge to Nowhere," has become shorthand for frivolous earmarks.

"The Earmark" is also the name of a political satire website.

See Also

  • Cheese Factories on the Moon
    Cheese Factories on the Moon
    Cheese Factories on the Moon: Why Earmarks are Good for American Democracy is a book by American political scientists Scott A. Frisch and Sean Q Kelly. The title of the book was inspired by a quote by conservative Republican and former Senator Phil Gramm, who said:The book focuses on congressional...

  • Client politics
    Client politics
    Client politics is the type of politics when an organized minority or interest group benefits at the expense of the public. Client politics may have a strong interaction with the dynamics of identity politics....

  • Money loop
  • Pork barrel
    Pork barrel
    Pork barrel is a derogatory term referring to appropriation of government spending for localized projects secured solely or primarily to bring money to a representative's district...


External links