Pork-barrel spending increases in 2009

The cost of earmarks increased this year despite lawmakers' claims they're working to reduce pork-barrel spending.

Earmarks, which are inserted in appropriations bills by members in order to fund specific projects, added up to $19.9 billion in 2009, according to an analysis by the Taxpayers for Common Sense and Center for Responsive Politics. Earmarks in 2008 spending bills were worth $18.3 billion.

Earmark critics have said that the practice increases pork-barrel spending and takes funds away from national priorities.

"At a minimum, earmarks granted to lawmakers' friends and supporters merit scrutiny and indicate potential conflicts of interest," said Sheila Krumholz, the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.

But earmark defenders have argued that the practice is one way they can directly help their constituents. Earmarks accounted for 1.5 percent of the $1.3 trillion federal budget in 2009.

Amid criticism, lawmakers have sought to reduce earmarks and shed more light on how they're requested and awarded. House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) and Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said they reduced earmark spending in 2008 to below their 2006 level.

For fiscal year 2010 spending bills, Obey and Inouye said that all members must post their requests and explain on their websites why they're important before the requests are considered by appropriators.

President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTrump: Police 'have every right' to protest Chicago mayor To woo black voters in Georgia, Dems need to change their course of action 2018 midterms: The blue wave or a red dawn? MORE persuaded Congress to keep the $787 billion stimulus free of earmarks, but he signed a $410 billion spending measure in March that included $7.7 billion in earmarks. Obama, when he signed the bill, called for stricter earmark disclosure rules that would require lawmakers to post all their earmark requests on their web sites and direct federal agencies to hold a competitive bidding process for earmarks to private companies.

The earmark study, released Thursday, found that states with smaller populations, and members of Congress on the appropriations panels, were big earmark winners.

Alaska, home of a former appropriator, Sen. Ted Stevens (R), and a current appropriator, Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGOP senators introduce Trump's plan to claw back billion in spending Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — VA reform bill heads to Trump's desk Senators introduce bill to measure progress in opioid fight MORE (R), received more than $331 per person in earmark funds, the most for any state. The states with the next two highest levels of per capita earmark money were Mississippi, home of Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranMississippi Democrat drops Senate bid Dems look to keep up momentum in upcoming special elections Chamber of Commerce makes play in Mississippi Senate race for Hyde-Smith MORE, the top Senate GOP appropriator, and North Dakota, home of Sen. Byron Dorgan, a senior Democratic appropriator.

The member of Congress to win the most earmark money was Cochran, whose earmarks added up to $1.22 billion. They included funds for repairs to hurricane damage at an Army ammunition plant and for construction at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy.

The House member with the most earmark money was Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa), whose earmarks totaled $217 million. Many of Loebsack's earmarks were also requested by Iowa's two senators, Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinDem Senator open to bid from the left in 2020 Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Trump should require federal contractors to follow the law MORE (D) and Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyDem senator: Trump Jr. may have given 'false testimony' about meeting with foreign nationals A second chance for Republicans to reform farm handouts Former US attorneys urge support for Trump nominee MORE (R).

Download the study here.