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Category: Earmarks



  • Summer Reading: Budget and Spending

    Michi Iljazi on September 4, 2015

    congress

    It was a productive August for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA), providing Congress with reading material during their August vacation with the 2015 Summer Reading series (click here for more). The final installment for this summer focuses on what’s ahead for lawmakers in September with the looming budget deadline of September 30. The House and Senate have major work to do in order to pass a spending bill that will keep the government funded to avoid a shutdown.  And, as usual, there won’t be much time for them to get it done.  In fact, Congress will only be in session for 12 days in September, making the budget deadline more ominous. Let’s start with how Congress ended up in this familiar situation. The last several years have been marked by multiple stop-gap spending measures that seem to get passed at the last minute. This has been a trend because the annual appropriations bills never made it out of both chambers. Though the House has been working to pass all the needed appropriations bills, the Senate has failed to pass spending bills. The government will run out of money at the end of September, so there will have to be some kind of funding bill passed in order to avoid a shut down. There are some key issues driving the debate over what any short-term funding package will look like, but TPA is calling on Congress to avoid using this must-pass legislation as a vehicle for irresponsible spending. The most preferred way to resolving the budget impasse is for both chambers to pass appropriations bills; but that option is no longer on the table. Another option would be a major budget deal; that is also off the table due to the lack of time before government funding expires. In lieu of those two preferred pathways, House and Senate leaders will likely move another short-term spending measure that will fund the government from anywhere from one day to a year.

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  • GOP Candidates Noticeably Silent On Pentagon Spending Reform

    David Williams on August 18, 2015

    gop

    This article originally appeared in The Daily Caller on August 12, 2015

    The future of the Republican approach to foreign policy and national security was on full display during the first presidential debates. The candidates made pledges to take on the Islamic State and to rip up the Iran nuclear deal, but unfortunately, they failed to offer a grand vision or strategy on how to deal with the security challenges of today and the years to come. They also failed to address Pentagon spending and how to reform the Pentagon to be more equipped fiscally and physically to fight the next war. Instead, many simply reiterated false narratives and stale talking points to justify throwing more money at the military.

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  • Delay of Water Settlements Needlessly Costing Taxpayers

    David Williams on January 22, 2015

    water

    One of the main powers and responsibilities of Congress is to spend money. Often times this authority is abused and taxpayers end up burdened by the costs of wasteful spending on pet projects (earmarks) and needless programs that otherwise wouldn’t be approved. However, sometimes there are issues that are misrepresented.  Another responsibility of Congress is to finalize water rights settlements that have already been negotiated by Congress. This is an issue that that hasn’t gotten much attention but is costing taxpayers.  A Republican-controlled Congress may be able to move these settlements forward. As Congress makes progress in taking care of these settlements, some may want to characterize these as earmarks.  While some have said these settlement agreements are tantamount to earmarks, that is not simply the case. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) is fully aware of what constitutes an earmark in Congress and these are not even close. TPA has been exposing earmarks for years.  The latest expose of earmarks by TPA was the 293 earmarks hidden in the Defense appropriations bill worth more than $13 billion (click here for a full list).  The settlements reached by Congress regarding these water and land disputes are not earmarks and shouldn’t classified as such.

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  • TPA Celebrates Festivus!

    David Williams and Michi Iljazi on December 18, 2014

    festivus

    It’s the holiday season and while folks will be celebrating different holidays nationwide there is one holiday that unites all of us: FESTIVUS! Many are familiar with the Seinfeld-inspired holiday that took aim at conventional traditions of gift giving and was basically an alternative to the days of joy in December with the focus being much more critical of those you’re closest with in life. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) wants to mark Festivus with a holiday message for the President and Congress, so please enjoy!

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  • BREAKING: TPA Slams Congress for The CRomnibus That Could Steal Christmas (and Billions of Tax Dollars)

    Michi Iljazi on December 10, 2014

    cap

    ALEXANDRIA, VA – Today, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) excoriated Congress for offering a $1.1 trillion CRomnibus spending bill for the fiscal year (2015) that contains billions of dollars worth of earmarks. On Tuesday December 9, 2014, Congress released a 1,600-page spending bill crafted by House and Senate appropriators.  Dubbed the “CRomnibus” because it combines a Continuing Resolution (CR), which funds government agencies in the absence of individual spending bills, and an Omnibus spending bill, which contains the individual spending bills, the legislation closes the chapter on one of the most unproductive sessions of Congress of all time.   The legislation contains full funding for 11 of the 12 appropriations, with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) only receiving enough funds to operate into early 2015.  There’s not much to praise when looking at both the substance of the bill and the manner in which it was delivered. Taxpayers will once again be left on the hook for spending that includes programs that are neither needed nor wanted. Further, the CRomnibus reminded taxpayers that earmarks are not dead.  Defense appropriations contain 293 earmarks worth more than $13 billion,(click here for a full list), including four additional F-35 aircrafts (which have been plagued with problems) and $120 million for the Abrams tank that the Pentagon doesn’t want.

    Click 'read more' to see the full statement from TPA

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  • Taxpayers Are Hoping They Don't Get Thrown Under the Omnibus

    Michi Iljazi on November 25, 2014

    capitol

    With the Congress in a short Lame Duck recess (slated to return next week) and the government running out of funding on December 11th, it is nearing the point where there will be some type of legislation needed to keep the government open for the remainder of the year and into 2015. The real question right now is what type of stopgap funding measure will there be from Congress to make sure the government remains open for business after the latest Continuing Resolution (passed in September) expires. Will it be another CR? Or will there be a massive omnibus spending bill headed to the President’s desk? If it is the latter, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) will be concerned and taxpayers should be too with the possibility of earmarks being inserted into the bill. Though earmarks were banned, lawmakers have found a way around the process and they continue to be a problem. Right now the tide appears to be with the Omnibus, and there are reports out that show there’s not even interest in a short-term Continuing Resolution. John T. Bennett of Defense News said this much last week in an article Thursday.

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  • A Return of Earmarks? Not So Fast

    David Williams on November 17, 2014

    cap

    This article originally appeared in The Daily Caller on November 14, 2014

    For many years, earmarks were business as usual in Washington, D.C. That changed in 2006 when Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives partly due to their excessive spending on earmarks. Responding to that voter pressure, Congress instituted transparency rules for earmarks starting in 2008 and then in 2010, the House and Senate agreed to a two-year moratorium. The moratorium was extended and most earmarks disappeared, except for the defense spending bill. In fact, TPA uncovered 186 earmarks worth $7 billion (click here to see the full list) in the Defense Appropriations Bill that was part of H.R. 3547, the 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act, aka the Omnibus appropriations bill. One member of Congress tried to unsuccessfully bring back earmarks. A post from Redstate.com on November 14 noted that Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) tried to introduce an amendment to House rules that “would allow an exception to the earmarks ban for ‘State, locality (including county and city governments), or a public utility or other public entity.’”

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  • TPA Presents The 2014 Taxpayer Tricks and Treats!

    David Williams and Michi Iljazi on October 30, 2014

    halloween

    Today is Halloween and as everyone is getting ready for costumes and candy and parties, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) is busy fighting all the scary things government has in store for taxpayers! With that in mind TPA is releasing the annual Taxpayer Trick or Treat list! There’s plenty to be afraid of for the taxpayer, but the biggest trick played on taxpayers is the $17 trillion debt that is approaching $18 trillion faster than a Vampire hiding from the sun!

    TRICKS

    Earmarks or “The Walking Dead”

    Responding to voter outrage, Congress instituted transparency rules for earmarks beginning in 2008 .  In 2010, the House and Senate agreed to a two-year moratorium on earmarks. The moratorium was extended but unfortunately the ‘spirit’ of earmarks has lived on. This year TPA uncovered massive amounts of earmarked funding in Omnibus (read here) and both House & Senate appropriations bills (read here). With more than $20 billion documented from those three alone, taxpayers should be frightened at the prospect of how legislators are getting around the earmark ban and keeping these money eating Zombies alive. Now some members of Congress like Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) want to bring them back permanently.  Click here to read more about TPA’s work on earmarks.

    For more of TPA's 2014 Tricks and Treats, click 'read more' below!

    » Read More
  • TPA Presents The 2014 Taxpayer Tricks and Treats!

    David Williams and Michi Iljazi on October 27, 2014

    halloween

    Halloween is this week and as everyone is getting ready for costumes and candy and parties, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) is busy fighting all the scary things government has in store for taxpayers! With that in mind TPA is releasing the annual Taxpayer Trick or Treat list! There’s plenty to be afraid of for the taxpayer, but the biggest trick played on taxpayers is the $17 trillion debt that is approaching $18 trillion faster than a Vampire hiding from the sun!

    TRICKS

    Earmarks or “The Walking Dead”

    Responding to voter outrage, Congress instituted transparency rules for earmarks beginning in 2008 .  In 2010, the House and Senate agreed to a two-year moratorium on earmarks. The moratorium was extended but unfortunately the ‘spirit’ of earmarks has lived on. This year TPA uncovered massive amounts of earmarked funding in Omnibus (read here) and both House & Senate appropriations bills (read here). With more than $20 billion documented from those three alone, taxpayers should be frightened at the prospect of how legislators are getting around the earmark ban and keeping these money eating Zombies alive. Now some members of Congress like Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) want to bring them back permanently.  Click here to read more about TPA’s work on earmarks.

    For more of TPA's 2014 Tricks and Treats, click 'read more' below!

    » Read More
  • Catfish Program Bad for Taxpayers and Free Trade

    David Williams on August 11, 2014

    catfish

    This article appeared in Inside Sources on July 31, 2014

    There was a time when appropriations season in Washington was a time for wasteful handouts to special interests of all stripes. Grinning politicians would toss cash like freshly plucked flower pedals, while skipping in the summer sun. Capitol Hill was alive with the sound of earmarking.  Fortunately, there is a moratorium on earmarks (even though the House and Senate slipped in billions of dollars worth of earmarks into the Defense Appropriations Bill), but there is still plenty of wasteful spending that needs to be eliminated.  One program in particular, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) catfish inspection program not only epitomizes wasteful spending, it could dismantle an important trade deal thereby hurting economic growth.

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  • Open Records Counsel: Chattanooga Utility EPB Wrongly Demanded Fees to View Public Records

    Deborah Fisher on August 5, 2014

    chattanooga
    Chattanooga, TN (courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

    Deborah Fisher is executive director of Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, an alliance of citizens, media and good government groups who work to promote government transparency. The city-owned utility of Chattanooga charged a University of Tennessee-Chattanooga student $1,767 to view its public records on advertising spending — an amount that the state’s Open Records Counsel said is not in line with the law. Despite counsel Elisha Hodge telling Electric Power Board of Chattanooga (EPB) that it could not charge labor fees to compile records for a citizen to inspect, the utility stood by its decision in a story in the Chattanooga Times Free Press and tried to justify its action by saying the student was working with a national think tank. Student Ethan Greene on March 24 requested to inspect EPB’s advertising records from January 2012 to March 2014 including contracts, advertising expenditure checks and copies of emails including terms such as “television ad.” Greene told Tennessee Coalition for Open Government that he got involved because he was concerned about the cost of his EPB service and the huge amount of advertising that it seemed the utility was bombarding its customers with. He said he was a marketing-political science major, wanted to act upon his studies and connected with the libertarian group Taxpayers Protection Alliance that researches government waste while on campus.

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  • BREAKING NEWS: Watchdog Group Uncovers Billions in Earmarks in both the House and Senate Defense Appropriations Bills (UPDATED)

    David Williams and Michi Iljazi on July 31, 2014

    pentagon

    BREAKING NEWS: Watchdog Group Uncovers Billions in Earmarks in both the House and Senate Defense Appropriations Bills

    ALEXANDRIA, VA – Today, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) uncovered hundreds of earmarks in both the House and Senate versions of the 2015 Defense Appropriations bill. In the House (click here), there were 137 earmarks worth $8,176,255,000. In the Senate (click here), there were 190 earmarks worth $11,718,149,000. All of the earmarks listed were spending items not requested by the Pentagon.  This is yet another disappointing example of Washington politicians spending taxpayer money in circumvention of established budgetary procedures. The waste could be seen in such familiar programs like $224,000,000 added by the House for the F-35; $120 million added by both the House and he Senate for the Abrams Tank; and $80 million for the Littoral Combat Ship. For a list of the earmarks that appeared in both chambers, click here!

    Click 'read more' below to see the full list of earmarks

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  • The Tennessee EPB Failure is Looking to Expand to Georgia

    David Williams on July 29, 2014

    broadband

    Earlier this month, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported the city-owned utility system, the Electric Power Board (EPB), wants to expand its gigabit Internet offering beyond the city limits. According to the newspaper, EPB may even move across state lines, into Georgia. Under current Tennessee law, EPB “is only allowed to offer fiber optic service to customers who also get their electricity from EPB.” In other words, the scope is responsibly limited. The EPB can appeal to the Federal Communications Commission to go around that law, and did just that last week. A decision by the FCC to circumvent the law would be bad for taxpayers, could harm the local economy and would also go against state lawmakers’ clear preference that EPB concentrate on providing service to the citizens of Chattanooga. EPB’s plans are the height of hubris. By all accounts, the utility has attracted only a relative handful of subscribers to its gigabit service – perhaps because when it set the original sky-high price of $349.00/month for the service, President Harold DePriest said EPB chose the rate simply “because we can.” So, instead of market studies, business modeling or product testing, EPB just did things because they could. That could very well be the same mentality at play now. Is there any indication that consumers in surrounding cities want EPB’s service or does EPB just want to expand because they think they should be allowed to?

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  • Transportation Bill Means Temptation for Earmarks

    David Williams on July 24, 2014

    durbin

    This article originally appeared in Human Events on July 23, 2014

    It’s often cliché to say that history repeats itself. But when it happens over and over again, cliché becomes reality. History is currently repeating itself when it comes to transportation funding and earmarks. The Transportation Trust Fund is set to run out in August and some members of Congress are anxious to exploit that issue to allow the return of unfettered pork spending. Earlier this year Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) suggested bringing back earmarks. Now former Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kansas), who is vying for his old congressional seat, has joined Sen. Durbin in publicly supporting the return of earmarks, as well.  This comes as no surprise considering that Sen. Durbin and former Rep. Tiahrt were major appropriators during the heyday of runway spending.  Unfortunately, the transportation bill just may be the vehicle that opens the door to allow the return of earmarks.

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  • Rep. Blackburn is Right: FCC Shouldn’t Force Government Broadband on States

    Michi Iljazi on July 22, 2014

    obama broadband

    The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has been very busy over the last few months dealing with spectrum and net neutrality. They have also been busy with another issue, government broadband. In April, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler made his intentions clear to ensure that government broadband would not only be here to stay, but that under his FCC, would flourish. The latest development that began much of the renewed discussion was an amendment that passed the House last week. The amendment was introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) meant to rein in the FCC’s power in their attempt to force states into government broadband expansion. Reacting to Rep. Blackburn’s amendment, there are some who chimed in on this issue siding with Wheeler saying that expansion is important and that critics are wrong. For example, Brian Fung in the Washington Post wrote last week warned of a possible ban on “public internet.”  That’s nonsense because nobody is trying to ban anything from the public. The real problem here is that government broadband is a lackluster substitute for a private sector product that not only works better, but actually ends up costing less for the consumer (and taxpayer).

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  • Any Supplemental Spending Should be Paid for With Spending Cuts

    Michi Iljazi on July 10, 2014

    potus

    Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”  That saying is as relevant to Washington today as it was during Churchill’s time. Back in 2009, with the country still in turmoil from the financial crisis, then White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel echoed the notion that when the country is in crisis politicians should use that crisis to do things they may not normally be able to do. This type of cynical and opportunistic approach to politics is probably just one of the many reasons why so many people have so little faith in our political institutions. The problems on the border are shaping up to be another opportunity for the President and Congress to turn a humanitarian crisis on the border into a fiscal crisis. President Obama submitted a $3.7 billion supplemental spending bill for measures that would (according to the Administration) constitute an aggressive approach to this problem. The White House released a statement calling on Congress to approve the spending with the President saying, "I urge the Congress to act expeditiously in considering this important request."

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  • Senate and House Offer Legislative Relief for (not so) Little Orphan Earmarks

    Michi Iljazi on June 17, 2014

    dot
    U.S. Department of Transportation 

    Several weeks ago the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) posted a blog about a new effort by some in the United States Senate to bring back congressional earmarking (click here). The move, supporters say, is aimed at helping get more legislation through a gridlocked Washington. Earmarks have been banned for several years now, after citizen outrage of the billions of dollars being spent on earmarks and the corrupting influence they had on the political process.  Now, legislation aims to get rid of “orphan earmarks,” those earmarks that have remained “idle,” because of long-term delays and even cancellations. In 2008, Congress responded to taxpayer outrage and instituted transparency rules for earmarks, and then in 2010, the House and Senate agreed to a two-year moratorium on earmarks. Though the moratorium was extended and most earmarks disappeared, there was still room in the Defense spending bill.  In fact, TPA uncovered 186 earmarks worth $7 billion (click here to see the full list) in the Defense Appropriations Bill that was part of H.R. 3547, the 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act, aka the Omnibus appropriations bill. The money that is put aside for earmarks in just one bill can be a staggering amount, as evidenced by the DoD spending bill mentioned above. Something important to note however is that sometimes the money is not spent immediately and at times just sits in an account. Taxpayer money is left unaccounted for, yet appropriated for pet projects that may never see the light of day.

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  • (UPDATED) TPA Releases Analysis of Amendments to National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)

    David Williams and Michi Iljazi on May 22, 2014

    Yesterday, Taxpayers Protection Alliance put out a list of amendments that were being considered for H.R. 4435, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015. TPA provided members of Congress and all Americans with a guide on specific amendments and how members of Congress should vote. Just now, the House concluded their business regarding these offered amendments and will move forward with passage likely of the NDAA sometime this afternoon. Now that amendments have been debated and selected, TPA wanted to update readers on where there were victories for taxpayers, and where there were defeats. The debate on the NDAA will shift to the Senate and TPA will watch to see what the bill will look like after they complete their process, although unfortunately in that chamber of Congress, there is a lack of transparency in how they proceed on the NDAA, as TPA has noted recently. Regardless, it is time for Congress to take steps to ensure that the Department of Defense (DoD) is given the necessary tools to defend the nation while not using this legislation as yet another way to waste taxpayer dollars.

    Click 'read more' below to see the updated list! » Read More
  • TPA Releases Analysis of Amendments to National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)

    David Williams and Michi Iljazi on May 21, 2014

    The House of Representatives is debating H.R. 4435, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) is providing members of Congress and all Americans with a guide on specific amendments and how members of Congress should vote. The guide is simple: the amendment number; the sponsor(s) of the amendment; a description of the amendment (text was taken directly from the House of Representatives website); and the correct way to vote.  As an added feature, TPA has flagged some of the amendments with “Vote No! (Earmark Alert)” as potential earmarks. TPA takes a clear stand on these proposed amendments and makes clear whether they are beneficial to taxpayers or not. It is time for Congress to take steps to ensure that the Department of Defense (DoD) is given the necessary tools to defend the nation and not use this legislation yet another means to waste taxpayer money. TPA will continue to monitor these amendments as the bill makes its way through the House, Senate, and eventually conference committee.

    click 'read more' below to see the list of amendments

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  • Will Earmarks Make A Comeback, Or Have They Already?

    Michi Iljazi on April 25, 2014

    durbin
    United States Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.)

    We all remember pork-barrel earmarks.  Those pesky little projects that members of Congress snuck into spending bills to try and curry favor back home. Earmarks in the past have included $50 million for an indoor rain forest in Iowa; $500,00 for a teapot museum in Sparta, North Carolina; and $100,000 to the Tiger Woods Foundation.  Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) categorized earamrks as “the gateway drug to spending addiction in Congress because they encourage members of Congress to vote for bloated bills they would otherwise oppose. Earmarks also waste money outright, contrary to the views of many members.”  Responding to voter pressure, Congress instituted transparency rules for earmarks starting in 2008 and then in 2010, the House and Senate agreed to a two-year moratorium on earmarks.  The moratorium was extended and most earmarks disappeared, except for the Defense spending bill. In fact, TPA uncovered 186 earmarks worth $7 billion (click here to see the full list) in the Defense Appropriations Bill that was part of H.R. 3547, the 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act, aka the Omnibus appropriations bill. Now, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is calling for the full reinstatement of the earmark process in the halls of Congress. Senator Durbin wants to officially bring back the practice of inserting pet projects into bills in order to make it easier for members to vote in favor of legislation. Speaking on this last week, the Illinois Senator made the case for a return to an earmark-laden legislative process by using the example of the massive transportation bill

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