Rawstory.com just posted a terrific look at the troubling phenomenon of earmarking funds in the legislative branch of U.S. Government, along with relevant footage from Bill Moyer's show.
One investigative report and his team spent a year collecting data in order to trace all of the "Pork" or earmarked funds in last year's defense budget, along with the companies the money went to, the legislators that created the earmarks, and a look at campaign contributions given to those legislators.
Drilling down to the highest level of detail in the database they put together is extremely time consuming so for the close-up look at what's going on with earmarks they decided to start by staying local and taking a close look at some of the U.S. legislators from Washington State. What they found is incredible.
In the case of one Congresswoman, she received campaign contributions from a military contractor that made a wearable headset computer device, then earmarked funds to develop and then purchase a number of the devices. Interviews with the military reveal that the device was problematic and could never be used in combat.
Some time later a different company who made a similar product announced that they had won an army-sponsored competition with their wearable headset computer. The next day this Congresswoman announced earmarks for $6 million to purchase 1,599 more of the original devices (that the military had already said they couldn't use, and had already found a replacement for) and her announcement was followed a short time later by more campaign contributions by the company she had earmarked the funds for.
This same Congresswoman earmarked money to purchase four patrol boats for the Coast Guard and Navy. Both agencies reviewed the boats she intended to purchase for them and said the boats would not meet their needs. She left the earmarks in the bill anyway and the boats ended up being delivered to the Coast Guard and Navy, who lost little time in donating them to a local sheriff's office, a college and a weather research organization. The manufacturer of the boats made a number of campaign contributions to her shortly after the bill passed.
When asked about the earmarked funds essentially being thrown away on useless items she merely said "nobody bats 1000". When questioned about the companies she earmarked the funds for she said she felt it was her job to keep as much federal money in her district as possible, and denied any relation between the contributions she received and the earmarks she doled out.
Another Congressman confronted about similar things in his own record also flatly denied any relation between the earmarks he put into the budget and the campaign contributions he received from the beneficiaries of those earmarks, and scorned the idea of disallowing campaign contributions from parties that receive earmarked federal dollars.
Several members of Congress are trying to put a stop to earmarks. One of the most vocal recently tried to get onto the Appropriations Committee and was penalized by his own party, and not permitted onto the committee.