Conservatives demand crackdown after 8,000 pet projects in Congress cost taxpayers $15 BILLION in 2024: Republicans urged to ban earmarks that included cash for salmon research, studies on sharks and LGBTQ groups

April 9th, 2024

A coalition of conservative groups led by former Vice President Mike Pence’s Advancing American Freedom wrote a letter this week calling on congressional Republicans to once again ban earmarks.

A pair of spending bills to fund 12 agencies of government over fiscal year 2024 contained some 8,099 earmarks with a total cost of $14.6 billion.

‘This never should have happened. However, the remedy is simple and the same as always: ban earmarks,’ the letter, obtained by, read.

It was signed by leaders from 17 advocacy groups, including Heritage Action, Family Research Council and the State Freedom Caucus Network.

‘Washington uses earmarks to grease the skids for runaway spending, Advancing American Freedom executive director Paul Teller told

Washington’s sentiment on earmarks has changed over the years. Directing funding for members of Congress’ pet projects back in their district was banned for a decade. At one point President Obama threatened to veto any bill that contained earmarks.

The practice of directing federal money for specific state and local projects began in the 1980s and swelled until they became codified in 2007.

Around that time concerns grew about corruption that peaked with the Alaskan ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ — where Rep. Don Young and Sen. Ted Stevens led the direction of $223 million of taxpayer funds to construct a bridge between a small Alaskan town and an island with a population of 50 that housed an airport.

In a 2005 incident, Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) resigned from Congress and admitted to accepting $2.4 million in bribes from military contractors for directing earmarks to them. Other lawmakers were found to have gotten campaign contributions in exchange for submitting earmark requests.

In response to the outrage, Congress enacted a 10-year moratorium on earmarks in 2011.

Earmarks made their return on 2021 when both parties agreed among themselves to allow the practice once again.

They were rebranded as ‘community funding projects’ and new guardrails were meant to weed out ethical conflicts.

The difference between earmarks and the regular appropriations process is that they are generally targeted at projects that serve only a local or special interest, rather than giving a lump sum to an agency to distribute through its own evaluation process.

Without earmarks, members of Congress could encourage groups to submit grant requests to relevant agencies or argue for funding before a committee.

Democrats were the first to embrace earmarks, and Republicans were at first more reluctant – only around half of them requested earmarks in 2022. Then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who was in leadership when the practice was banned a decade earlier, did not request any for his own district.

After the GOP took the majority in 2023, they further embraced earmarks, and this fiscal year some two thirds of the Republican Conference stands to score funding for district projects.

Some examples of pet projects in this year’s funding bills include:

The Waadookodaading Ojibew Language Institute in Wisconsin will get $5 million courtesy of Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

New York Democrat Rep. Jamaal Bowman clinched $1.65 million to build and ‘artists’ living and workspace’ with the Environmental Leaders of Color.

Louisiana Republicans Rep. Garrett Graves and Sen. Bill Cassidy got $1 million for sugarcane research in their state.

Another $1 million will go to ‘electric vehicle infrastructure ‘masterplan’ in Chicago, thanks to Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

In Providence, Rhode Island, $1 million will go to a ‘city-wide climate assessment.’

Rep. Greg Steube, a Republican of Florida, will get $190,000 for a ‘shark repellent study’ in Sarasota.

Juvenile Pacific Salmon Research in Alaska will get $4 million thanks to Sen. Lisa Murkowsi, R-Alaska.

A 50-acre business development site in Lexington, Ky., known as Legacy Business Park will get $10 million thanks to Rep. Andy Barr, R-KY.

Public housing residents in Democratic Rep. Nanette Barragan’s California district will get $1 million for an electric vehicle car share thanks to her.

Alabama state route 167 will get $20 million thanks to GOP Sen. Katie Britt.

The NAACP headquarters in Baltimore will get $500,000 thanks to Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

A boy scout camp, Camp Maluhia, will get $1 million for a new dining hall thanks to Sen. Brian Schatz.

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