By Elissa Salamy | The National Desk
WASHINGTON (SBG) - Earmarks went away in 2011 after a number of corruption scandals that landed some lawmakers in prison. But this year, Congress brought them back in a big way.
An independent watchdog group found that over 3,300 earmarks have been proposed by 324 members of Congress in the upcoming 2022 budget. And critics are frustrated.
“One of the most egregious earmarks was also one of the lowest costs: $5,000 from Andre Carson, he’s a Congressman in Beechgrove, Indiana, and he wants to purchase Santa gifts for the senior citizens in his district," says Adam Andrzejewski, CEO Open The Books
Open The Books says Democratic Representative Linda Sachez earmarked $300,000 for a new dog park in Montebello, California. Delaware’s Stacy Plaskett earmarked $3.5 million to build “fish markets” in St. Thomas and the Virgin Islands.
“One of the largest local earmarks is from a Republican in Arkansas. He wants to spend $19 million funding a new fire station in Kodiak, Alaska,” said Andrzejewski.
Open The Books reports just over $9.2 billion in earmarks. Democrats racked just under $4.6 billion dollars in proposed spending and Republicans just under $4.7 billion.
“Many people believe that when a Republican goes to Washington, D.C. and is a part of Congress, they are a fiscal conservative ... in earmarking that is not the case,” said Andrzejewski.
But some lawmakers are glad earmarks are back, allowing them to target spending for specific projects like a YMCA.
“A lot of these local projects need to be funded locally. Your tax dollars do not need to be flowing into and funding local projects,” said Andrzejewski.
You can find out what your Congressional leaders are requesting, as all earmarks have to be disclosed publicly. Lawmakers must include a written justification for the project, and the lawmaker cannot have a financial interest in the request.