Here’s How You Can Help!

 

Congress's decision to reinstate earmarks (or as they like to call them “Community Project Funding” requests) has created a flood of projects to review - there are literally thousands of projects for billions of dollars requested by Members of Congress this year.  All of these projects are local in nature, often targeted towards some local parochial interest, whether it be a donor, an interest group, or friends of the Congressman.  Unfortunately, we do not have intimate knowledge of all the local communities to understand all these dynamics on the ground and local reporting is a shell of what it once was.  This is where you can help out.  

 

The Pork Map provides you with an overview of the projects that members of Congress have requested in their district. If you click on the pig, the box next to the earmark has the value, the short summary provided by the Member of Congress, and a link to the Congressman’s justification for the project.  The map allows you to zoom in to the street level and see where and whom the project might serve.  

 

If you can provide us with tips or, even better, detailed explanations of the problematic issues associated with the project, we can draft them into posts that will be written upon the Pork Map website and will be pinned to the project on the map. If you’re comfortable, we would like to credit you with doing the research associated with the report.  

 

Detailed below are some of the common wasteful problems associated with earmarks requested by Members of Congress. 

 

  • Requesting money for a project associated with a donor. Examples include: 

    • Donors, or their spouses, serving on the board of a charitable organization sponsoring the earmark.

    • Donors owning companies that would be involved in the construction of the project, particularly for public works projects. Oftentimes the earmark doesn’t directly mention the construction company but rather might be a new wing for the local hospital which just happens to be built by BigDonorCo.   

    • Projects to purchase equipment that can only be sourced by a few or one vendor, such as Police Body Camera, one of the main vendors which is the company, Axon. Axon donations to the requesting member would be concerning. 

    • Road projects that enhance the value of something important to a donor, such as a road project that serves a donor-supported project (i.e. large construction projects built by donor getting taxpayer funded road, existing donor facility getting new wastewater projects, etc.) 

      • The FEC provides excellent individual donor information and in the case of earmarks that serve an industry or group (Big Sugar for example) OpenSecrets provides excellent sectoral data on donations by groups or industries.

  • Projects funding organizations that have a large endowment that should be able to fund their own operations.  Sources for non-profits tax filings that show their asset balances include ProPublica and the IRS as well as the annual reports that many non-profits file themselves.  

  • Projects that would be better funded by a private-sector group in the community.  

  • Projects associated with ideologically problematic groups, such as the Teamsters, radical environmental groups like the National Resources Defense Council or the Center for Biological Diversity, etc. 

  • Projects that serve few people, yet have significant costs.  The infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska was the most famous example, but Members of Congress will often request earmarks in isolated communities where there is limited per capita benefit. 

  • Public works projects suspiciously close to a Member of Congress’ home or Congressional office. 

 

And don’t neglect to highlight just plain dumb projects for us.  Often Member requested projects are only wasteful, not necessarily wasteful and corrupt.  Lobster Institutes, Teapot Museums, and Indoor Rainforests are always important to highlight.