The Favor Factory

The Seattle Times has done a deep dive into earmarking.  First, they went through a huge, mainly manual effort to compile a database of Defense earmarks and campaign contributors who get earmarks.  Then, they researched some of those earmarks, and found some incredible, yet typical wastes of money.

For example, one earmark by Sen. Patti Murray (D-WA) for a heads-up display used by Army troops was for a device that had lost an Army bid.  Most of those devices are stored in a warehouse and will never be used.  Another of her earmarks was for a patrol boat the Navy and Coast Guard didn't want, and that they gave away almost immediately after it was received.

Rep. David Wu (D-OR-1) got an earmark for a local clothing manufacturer for T-shirts for the Marine Corps.  The shirts are synthetic fabric which burns and melts easily, and are banned in combat. 

The Times' was able to correlate all of Murray and Wu's earmarks with significant campaign contributions from officials for the earmark recipients' companies.  Their database covers all of Congress, including Randy Kuhl.

The Times' effort to compile this database and track down worthless earmarks was documented in a recent episode of Bill Moyers Journal, which can be viewed online.  If you have any interest in journalism or earmarking, take 20 minutes and watch it online -- it's well worth the effort.  Also worth a read is the summary story by the main Times' reporter, David Heath.


I looked up the Presidential candidates - Hillary has the most by far at about $110 million. Obama has about $3 million and McCain has none. Perhaps Obama or McCain will help slow down earmarks. Doesn't look like Hillary would.

I have a database for FY08 that was just released by Taxpayers for Common Sense, and McCain has zero earmarks in that, too.

As for Hillary's huge earmark total, she works the system hard. Obama, not so much.