Museums for teapots, tunnels for turtles, and alcohol for mice might seem like things straight out of Alice in Wonderland. Unfortunately for taxpayers’ pocketbooks, these are all real examples of projects that Congress has funded using earmarks. Congress finally abandoned this controversial spending practice in 2011 due to public shaming over such boondoggles. But now, earmarks are coming back, disguised under the misleading euphemism “community project funding.”
Many people have never heard of earmarks, and their proponents in Congress would like to keep it that way. An earmark is a provision in an appropriations bill that designates a specific amount of funding for a particular project. Usually, appropriations bills mandate a competitive, merit-based bidding process, but earmarks circumvent these safeguards and allow members of Congress to direct funds to their favorite pet projects, no matter how unworthy or superfluous.
Allowing members of Congress to pick and choose specific projects is a clear recipe for corruption. Former Rep.