Substack: House Freedom Caucus Members Earmarked Nearly $1 Billion From Taxpayers 57_House_Freedom_Caucus

April 3, 2024 03:40 PM

OpenTheBooks_Investigation

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Two members earmarked money for universities:

Rep. Clay Higgins (LA) earmarked $3.3 million to his alma mater, Louisiana State, for their STEAM Innovation Center (Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture and Math).

LSU has over $1 billion in their endowment. Maybe they’ll name the building after him?
Rep. Ronny Jackson (TX) secured $2.1 million for the West Texas A&M University Foundation for an education training facility. The Congressman’s son is a sophomore there.

 

By Adam Andrzejewski, OpenTheBooks CEO/Founder | Published at OpenTheBooks.Substack.com

The House Freedom Caucus was founded in 2015. Self-styled fiscal conservatives promoted themselves as a bulwark against establishment spending that would bankrupt the nation.

 

It turns out that many are better at breaking their promises than stopping spending.

 

In these hyper-partisan times, we discovered 22 of the 49 Freedom Caucus members standing shoulder-to-shoulder with The Squad, whose earmarking we reported last week.

 

Nearly half the Caucus members are cross-dressing as fiscal conservatives – making 210 earmark requests for pet projects in their districts. Even House Speaker Mike Johnson (LA), erstwhile Freedom Caucus member, earmarked $60 million last year and $7 million in 2024.

 

Bulwark against profligacy? More like Fortress Spend. 

 

Earmarking is a practice that gives individual members with clout in their caucus a ticket to goodies for the folks back home – funding pet projects that otherwise aren’t passing muster despite the seemingly infinite number of federal programs.

 

Incredibly, members of the conservative Freedom Caucus, the progressive Squad, and the uni-party establishment are an alliance that wasted a stunning $32 billion on earmarks since 2023.

 

"There is no left or right only up or down." – Ronald Reagan

 

House Freedom Caucus members captured $957 million for their own districts using 210 earmarks scattered throughout the omnibus bills in 2023 and 2024. Download the line-by-line database here.

 

Every dime of these bipartisan earmarks drains the U.S. Treasury from the left and the right.

 

Our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com, an organization I founded and lead, searched out their earmarks and added up the tab.

 

COMPARISON VS. THE SQUAD

Recently, our auditors quantified the earmarks doled out by the eight members of The Squad, an aggressive group of democratic socialists, who earmarked $224 million on 215 pet projects since 2023. This year, it was $13.9 million for the average Squad member and $111.4 million in total. 

 

In 2024, the individual hauls for the 22 Freedom Caucus members dwarf those of the Squad. These “freedom fighters” earmarked an average of $23.1 million each for a grand total of $508.9 million.

 

Those Freedom Caucus earmarks cost taxpayers $4.6 million each — more than double the member average for the rest of Congress.

 

With every dime borrowed against our $34 trillion national debt, this is a moral outrage.

 

House_Freedom_Caucus_Members_-_Earmarks4

 

FREEDOM CAUCUS LEADERSHIP

In January 2022, the Caucus laid out four principles for “restoring the people’s voice in Congress.” The fourth principle was to “institute a ban on earmarks.” Laudable! 

 

Over the last two years, none in Caucus leadership except Rep. Lauren Boebert (CO) took earmarks. Boebert jumped on the earmark train in the last round of 2024 spending bills by successfully requesting $20 million.

 

The Caucus is led by Rep. Bob Good (VA) with Chip Roy (TX) as the policy chair. Rep. Warren Davison (OH) is the Caucus whip and Boebert the communications chair. Rep. Jim Jordan (OH) was formerly in leadership and didn’t take earmarks.

 

Included in our numbers are former members of the Caucus and earmarkers Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA), who earmarked $9.4 million, and Rep. Randy Weber (TX), whose haul was an incredible $432 million since 2023 (see our analysis of Weber below). 

 

Weber was just booted out of the Caucus last month for missing too many meetings, but NOT for his rampant spending! 

 

The Caucus booted Greene for allegedly talking badly about her colleagues last summer.

 

Both members are included in this investigation because all their earmarks met the summer 2023 submission deadline before they were ousted from the Caucus.

 

THE GOOD LIST

A simple majority of the Caucus rejected earmarks – against all institutional force – and stuck to their principles and promises. These 27 members are highlighted below and should be thanked by every taxpayer for the courage of their convictions.

 

If the House Freedom Caucus has a future, these members will lead the way forward.

 

Freedom_Caucus_Good_List3

 

VOTING NO – BUT 22 TOOK THE DOUGH

Caucus leadership opposed both of this year’s omnibus bills, urging lawmakers to vote “No” because the legislation was “loaded with hundreds of pages of earmarks,” many of which came from… their own members.  

 

The 22 Caucus members earmarked a stunning $510 million in the 2024 bills. Last year, (only) eight members earmarked $448 million.

 

Rapidly, more and more of the rank-and-file members of the Freedom Caucus are embracing pork-barrel spending through earmarks.

 

Download the full database here – The Freedom Caucus Member Earmarks 2023 & 2024.

 

NOTEOn March 6 for the first six bills, Speaker Mike Johnson and Rep. Max Miller voted “Yes.” Rep. Ronny Jackson abstained. Everyone else voted “No.”  https://clerk.house.gov/Votes/202464?Page=5

 

On March 22 for the next six bills, Speaker Mike Johnson and Rep. Max Miller voted “Yes.” Rep. Troy Nehls abstained. Everyone else voted “No.”
 https://clerk.house.gov/Votes/2024102

 

House_Republicans_Strike_Out

 

PET PROJECTS

Here is just a sample of the projects funded by members of the House Freedom Caucus:

  • $190,000 to test electric and magnetic shark repellent. Rep. Greg Steube (FL)

  • $500,000 for an elevator at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. Recently, Republicans banned earmarks into museums, however, this one snuck through. Rep. Morgan Griffith (VA)

  • $505,000 for equipment at Roanoke College includes a synthetic cadaver (fake corpse) for medical students. Can’t they buy their own cadavers? Rep. Morgan Griffith (VA)

  • $1.75 million for the Rural Mental Health Coalition at Texas A&M – a totally local project to brainstorm mental health solutions – No actual mental health care is funded. Rep. Keith Self (TX)

  • $2.5 million for a Coastal Conservation Hub where Floridians can “find answers to their coastal restoration questions.” Rep. Bill Posey (FL)

  • $5 million for a Naples, Florida sewer-to-septic project phrase II. Phase I was funded locally. Gov. DeSantis vetoed $1.1 million in state money earmarked for phase II. Now, Phase II is funded by federal taxpayers for $5 million — thanks to Rep. Byron Donalds (FL).

  • $20 million for an upgrade of Baltimore Ave in Ocean City, Maryland. Construction began with a $20 million estimated cost but was delayed because new estimates showed an actual cost of $40 million. So, Andy Harris (MD) earmarked the $20 million difference. You’re paying for it.

Two members even earmarked money for their alma maters:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers earmarks

 

Certain members of the Freedom Caucus argue that the federal bureaucracy is dysfunctional, so they need to hand-pick hundreds of millions of dollars into worthy earmark projects – located in their own districts.  

 

Forty-percent of the overall earmark dollars from Caucus members went into infrastructure projects at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, mostly in Texas and Louisiana: $397.3 million on 12 earmarks.

 

Rather than working to reform the Corps project backlog, the members are using the irregular earmark process to fund their own picks. For example, on a bi-partisan basis, Congress passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill in 2022 – none of these U.S. Army Corps project amounts were included.

 

So, when members, like Rep. Weber, say they need earmark power for critical infrastructure projects, remember that argument opens the door for The Squad to earmark their $224 million haul. And every dime is borrowed against the national debt and green-lit though an irregular process.

 

Last September, Weber posted on social media that “We MUST cut the woke & weaponized spending of the federal gov & we should be reining in the out-of-control spending.” His earmarks contribute to Congressional overspending.

 

The problem even extends to new Speaker Mike Johnson (LA) with his $68 million in earmarks for the Army and Air Force Reserve; or Rep. Matt Gaetz (FL) with $50 million for the Navy and Air Force advanced helicopter projects.  

 

The U.S. military already secured a record $825 billion in this year’s spending package. If these projects are so important, why isn’t the military itself prioritizing these projects within a $825 billion budget? Why aren’t they funded on merit?

 

Rather than working hard for reforms at the Pentagon or at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the members and now leaders just participate in the legal corruption of the system.

 

(Remember, financial practices at the Pentagon are so poor that the agency can’t even account for half of its assets.)

 

ACTION

It’s time to close the cookie jar and force Congress to do their jobs – oversight, reform and appropriation. There’s no dessert when the national debt is set to cross $35 trillion and the bottom is falling out.

 

Tens of thousands of regular people have signed our petition calling for a public up or down vote in the U.S. House on earmarks. It’s an election year and the American people deserve to know who is in and who is out on earmarks – the currency of corruption in Congress.

 

Sign_Petition_-_Earmarks

 

BACKGROUND

Earmarks were banned for 10 years by a bipartisan group led by the late U.S. Senator Dr. Tom Coburn and then-President Barack Obama. Three years ago, House Republicans took a secret vote and joined then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats to bring earmarks back.

 

In 2024, the two omnibus spending bills contained 8,052 earmarks worth $15.7 billion. In 2023, the packages were stuffed with 7,510 earmarks for $16 billion.

 

Unfortunately, House Republicans have gone hog-wild for earmarks despite the national debt pushing $35 trillion. (Last summer, at one point in the U.S. House, the top 63 earmarkers on the FY2024 spending bills were Republicans.)

 

Members of Congress must disclose earmarks online, on 435 of their own Congressional websites. This makes oversight difficult.

However, our auditors at OpenTheBooks convert the public information into easy-to-use Excel databases. Then, we follow the money.

 

METHODOLOGY

Membership in the House Freedom Caucus is secret. Some members self-disclose and others receive campaign funding through the Caucus’ political action committee (PAC).

 

Just to test this secrecy, we reached out to Caucus communications staff and they confirmed:

 

“We don’t publish or share our membership and never have. Thanks”

 

When we asked, why? Here was the response:

“Just the way we have always operated”

 

However, in January 2023, the Pew Research Center quantified 49 members and allies of the Caucus with solid research methodologies. So, that’s the list we used for our investigation which spans 2023 and 2024.

 

Additional Reading

“The Squad” Earmarked $224 Million Since 2023 – Led By AOC, It’s Pork Barrel Spending By The Democratic Socialists | by Adam Andrzejewski, OpenTheBooks.Substack.com | March 26, 2024

Exposing Earmarks And Legalized Corruption In Congress | Primetime With Jesse Watters, Fox News Channel | October 5, 2023

Declaring Our Independence From Earmarks | By Adam Andrzejewski published at OpenTheBooks.Substack.com | July 4, 2023

OpenTheBooks federal oversight report — Earmarks, The Return of the Swamp Creatures | OpenTheBooks.com | June 9, 2023

Congressional Combine Fleeced America Using $16B In Earmarks To Pass $1.7T Omnibus Bill | OpenTheBooks.Substack | December 26, 2022

 

 

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