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Five Republican Signers of ‘No Earmarks Pledge’ Are Requesting More Than $175 Million in Earmarks


When House Democrats resurrected the previously scandal-plagued Congressional earmarks system in 2021, a group of more than 30 Republican lawmakers signed their name to a terse one-sentence statement vowing not to participate. 

We, the undersigned, pledge that we will not request earmarks, or the preferred euphemism of the day, ‘Community Project Funding,’” the GOP lawmakers pledged. The group of fiscally conservative lawmakers who signed the letter represented a range of primarily rural districts from Colorado to Virginia.

Just two years later, the pledge appears to have been forgotten by some of its most ardent supporters.

Five high-profile House Republicans who signed onto the no-earmarks pledge in 2021 have requested a combined 45 projects totaling $175.9 million in federal spending in the 2024 fiscal year, a review by The Messenger has found. They include Reps. Lauren Boebert, Byron Donalds, Lance Gooden, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Andy Harris.

The funding has not yet been finalized, and lawmakers typically only receive a fraction of the earmarks they request. Earmark requests are currently being reviewed by the GOP-led House Appropriations Committee as it develops fiscal year 2024 appropriations bills.

Four of the five Republicans are associated with the House Freedom Caucus, which was vociferous in opposing the resumption of the spending program. The group of arch-conservative lawmakers showcased its political power early this year when its members played a pivotal role in first blocking — and then helping — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy win the Speaker’s gavel.

“Earmarks are the currency of corruption,” the Freedom Caucus said on Twitter in February 2021, noting that it “opposes earmarks, whether in the 117th Congress or any future Congress.”

But times have changed, according to Greene, R-Ga., among the most vocal members of the Freedom Caucus. She has requested funding for eight projects totaling $14 million in 2024.

“The 118th Congress couldn’t be more different from Nancy Pelosi’s 117th,” Greene said in a statement to The Messenger. “The GOP is focused on being excellent stewards for the American taxpayer. We will only spend money to put America First. One of my greatest honors is serving the people of Northwest Georgia and part of my job is ensuring our district receives our share of federal funding already allocated to build infrastructure. The taxpayers in District 14 deserve to have our money reinvested in our community, instead of being sent to New York or California.”

Earmarks Greene has requested for 2024 include $1.7 million for the “structural and cosmetic renovation” of a historic community center and $3.8 million to extend a runway for the airport serving Rome, Georgia, a community of about 38,000.

Congressional records show Harris, R-Md., has been among the most prolific requesters of earmarks for the 2024 fiscal year, filing 15 requests for projects totaling $74.7 million. 

“I will never support earmarks!” Freedom Caucus stalwart Harris said in a February 2021 tweet. Harris did not respond to request for comment.

Among the staunchest opponents of the return of earmarks in 2021 was Boebert, R-Colo., who spoke out about the dangers of earmarks in addition to signing the pledge.

“Earmarks are counterproductive tools for entrenched politicians to shut down debate and buy votes,” Boebert wrote in a 2021 Fox News op-ed. “Now more than ever, politicians need to remember that for all their talk of accountability, they are accountable to American voters who are not going to stand for the charade.” 

“Tax dollars are not politicians’ personal wallets, and they should stop treating them as such,” Boebert said in a March 2021 press release highlighting her fight against earmarks.

Among the earmarks Boebert has requested is a $1.4 million bridge project in Glenwood Springs, Colorado — a well-off community near the Aspen ski resort that Bloomberg Business ranked seventh in a list of “the 20 richest small towns in America” published in 2015. Boebert did not respond to a request for comment.

Donalds, R-Fla., requested funding for nine projects totaling $29 million, including $5.5 million toward the replacement of a bridge serving the small island community of Sanibel, Florida. Donalds, who had also signed the pledge against earmarks, did not respond to a request for comment.

Gooden, who is not typically associated with the Freedom Caucus, requested three projects totaling $23 million. He did not respond to a request for comment.

The earmark appropriation process has been highly partisan since its return two years ago, with political power helping to decide how billions in federal dollars are spent.

Out of $15.3 billion in approved earmark spending for the 2023 fiscal year, Democrats sponsored more than 5,000 projects worth $8.6 billion and Republicans sponsored fewer than 2,000 projects totaling $5.7 billion. Only 433 projects totaling less than $1 billion had bipartisan sponsors. 

Now that Republicans have taken control in the House, earmark spending in the chamber is likely to favor the House GOP. Meanwhile at the other end of the Capitol, Democrats continue to control the purse strings in the Senate.

An earmark is essentially “a bribe of political utility” that is hard for members of either party to resist, said David Ditch, a former Senate budget analyst who is now a policy analyst with the right-leaning Heritage Foundation.

“I think they should be targeting these earmarks programs for spending reductions as the overall spending debate continues to play out,” Ditch said. 

But when a supermajority of Senators and a majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives want to keep earmarks, he added, “the optimal policy outcome takes a back seat to what is politically possible.”

Monday: Lawmakers sent millions in earmarks to their spouses' employers despite reforms.

Tomorrow: The new problems with federal earmarks look a lot like the old ones. 

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