Report: Earmark works near lawmaker homes

Feb. 7, 2012 at 1:25 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- Thirty-three members of the U.S. Congress drove more than $300 million in earmarks to projects near their property, The Washington Post reported.

However, directing such earmarks and other spending provisions to public projects close to their property -- whether commercial or personal and sometimes within 2 miles or hundreds of feet -- is legal and undisclosed under Congress' self-policing ethics rules.

The Post analyzed public records on the holdings of all 535 House and Senate members then compared them with earmarks sought for pet projects, most of them since 2008 after reporting rules changed. Besides the public projects, the review also found 16 lawmakers sent tax dollars to companies, colleges or community programs where their spouses, children or parents either worked or were on boards.

The Senate last week passed legislation that would require lawmakers to disclose their home mortgages and would require congressional members and executive branch officials to disclose securities trades of more than $1,000 every 30 days. However, the Senate defeated an amendment that would have banned earmarks permanently

Among some of the Post's findings:

-- A U.S. senator from Alabama secured more than $100 million in federal earmarks for renovations in downtown Tuscaloosa near a commercial office building he owns.

-- A representative from Georgia got $6.3 million to restore island beach about 900 feet from his vacation home.

-- A representative from Michigan sought and received a $486,000 earmark to add a bike lane to a bridge within walking distance of her home.

When questioned by the Post, lawmakers said city or state officials brought the needs to their attention and the earmarks help pay for improvements -- both tangible and intangible -- in their districts. Any possible benefit to them doesn't exist, is minimal or secondary to the greater goal of serving the public, they said.

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