Home Sport Pork barrel spending returns, more transparent and hopefully without the corruption

Pork barrel spending returns, more transparent and hopefully without the corruption

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In 2006, longtime congressional staffer Scott Lilly and I wrote an article about unethical  behavior by then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert. No, not his child molestation, which  only became public years later. This was about his outrageous abuse of a congressional earmark, a pot of money designated by a lawmaker for a project in his or her district.

Hastert had bullied through an earmark for a new highway that was supported neither by his constituents outside Chicago, nor by the Illinois Department of Transportation. But the highway was barely a mile from unimproved land owned by Hastert. And soon thereafter, Hastert, the former high school teacher and wrestling coach, parlayed that land into a multi-million dollar windfall. 

Hastert’s chicanery, coupled with other abuses by his colleagues, Democrats and Republicans alike, led to a public outcry against those earmarks — often referred to as “pork barrel spending” — and in 2011, the newly installed Republican House majority abolished them as a symbol of reform. While most earmarks were in fact worthwhile projects supported by members of Congress who knew the needs of their districts better than the bureaucrats who would otherwise allocate federal money, the process frequently lacked transparency and the potential for corruption was too great.



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