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U.S. Rep. Kind Announces One-Year Moratorium on Earmark Requests

March 11, 2008
Press Release

Calls for Review of Earmarking Process Through the
Creation of a Bipartisan Commission on Earmark Reform

Washington, D.C. ––U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) today announced that he will not seek any funding through the earmarking process for fiscal year 2009 and called for review and reform of the earmarking process through a bipartisan commission.

“Over twelve years of Republican rule, earmarks exploded in number and amount, and abuse of the system eroded the public’s trust in the process,” Rep. Kind said. “Wasteful spending has overshadowed the worthy causes that earmarks often fund. While Democrats made progress on transparency requirements last year – reforms that Republicans overwhelmingly opposed – further reform is necessary to fix this broken system.”

The amount spent on congressional earmarks hit an all-time high in FY 2006, with $29 billion spent on nearly 10,000 projects. When Democrats took the majority, a one-year moratorium on earmarks was imposed for FY 2007, and in FY2008 earmarks were cut by more than half. Democrats also passed transparency requirements that link members to projects and ensure the member has no financial interest earmarks they request. However, the congressional earmarking process still puts a premium on a member of congress’s seniority or authority – not just the merits of each project. Also, Members of Congress are still allowed to direct funds to projects named after themselves, a direct conflict of interest.

Equally troubling is the executive earmarking process. Executive agencies have the ability to unilaterally award billions in government contracts, and in 2006, $200 billion went to contractors without a formal bidding process. And while President Bush calls on Congress to reign in earmark spending, rarely even acknowledging his administration’s ability to earmark, he had no problem allocating $24 million to the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program in 2008.

“This is a bipartisan problem perpetuated by both the Congress and the White House, and it requires a bipartisan solution,” Rep. Kind said. “That is why I am imposing a one-year moratorium on my own earmark requests and am calling for the creation of a bipartisan commission to examine the process. We must go further to reform earmarks, to require greater transparency, equity, and fiscal responsibility.”

The bipartisan commission would report back to Congress within six months and would develop a definition of exactly what constitutes an “earmark,” so as to avoid already authorized programs being wrongly treated as earmarks. The commission, in assessing both legislative and executive earmarking, would also examine whether there are currently any disparities in the members, states, or regions receiving earmarks, and the impacts of earmarking on the overall budget.