‘Brothers’ Stevens, Inouye share defense-earmark haul

Sens. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) call each other “brother,” and that brotherly relationship is paying off in defense earmarks worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Stevens, the longest-serving Senate Republican, has secured $194 million in earmarks, while Inouye can boast of earmarks totaling $203.6 million, according to a database compiled by watchdog organization Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS).

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The two veteran lawmakers, who have given thousands of dollars in political contributions to each other, looked out for each other in the final 2008 defense appropriations bill.  Inouye is the chairman of the Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, while Stevens is the ranking member. Inouye this year contributed $10,000 from his political action committee to Stevens. The Alaskan legislator, who is under FBI investigation, is up for reelection this cycle.

Usually, the majority members receive 60 percent of the earmarks and the minority 40 percent, but the relationship between Stevens and Inouye speaks volumes. The two appropriators have split the earmark amount almost down the middle.

While most earmark requests have been trimmed as part of conference negotiations, Inouye’s and Stevens’s earmarks have received small adjustments. Inouye and Stevens also claim most earmarks by themselves without House co-sponsors.

Stevens sponsored one $1.6 million earmark for unmanned aerial vehicles with Alaska’s other GOP senator, Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSinema touts bipartisan record as Arizona Democrats plan censure vote Kavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw McConnell lashes out at Democrats over 'unhinged' criticism of Kavanaugh MORE, while Inouye sponsored three earmarks with Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) worth $9.4 million.

By comparison, Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranBiden has a lot at stake in first debate The Hill's Morning Report — Trump turns the page back to Mueller probe Trump praises Thad Cochran: 'A real senator with incredible values' MORE (R-Miss.) who recently announced he would run for reelection in 2008, claimed $255 million in earmarks, but most of those have been claimed with other lawmakers in the House and Senate, including a large share with Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.). Cochran, the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, sponsored $97 million worth of projects by himself.

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, claimed $167 million in earmarks, $23.2 million of which he sponsored with other lawmakers. The rest he claims by himself.

Meanwhile, in the lower chamber, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), who claimed most of the earmarks in the House version of the bill, received $115 million in projects, $35 million less than he initially had. He was still able to secure $23 million for a controversial National Drug Intelligence Center, which the Bush administration wants to close.

Medical technology is one of the areas that Murtha sought to boost with earmarks, with $5.6 million for a pain and neuroscience research program, $4 million for a military interoperable digital hospital bed and $1.6 million for a rural health program.  Only three of Murtha’s earmarks have Senate co-sponsors.  

Meanwhile, Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.), Chairman Murtha’s counterpart on the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, can claim almost $98.5 million in earmarks by himself and at least another $20 million with other lawmakers. Young’s requests were trimmed by about $9 million, according to the data compiled by TCS.

While the appropriations deans in the House and the Senate can claim many earmarks by themselves, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), a defense authorizer and Democratic presidential front-runner, claimed several earmarks in the conference report that were not included in the Senate version of the bill but were in the House version.

Clinton, who regularly sponsors earmarks with Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall MORE (D-N.Y.), took credit for 37 earmarks worth  $72 million that were not part of the Senate bill, according to TCS’s Keith Ashdown. Overall, the Clinton-Schumer team claimed $101 million in earmarks and shared at least $12 million with other lawmakers.

Clinton’s spokesman, Philippe Reines, said the project requests were not funded in the Senate but were funded in the House and that is how Clinton can claim the success on the projects.

Lawmakers from the same state usually confer during conference about who can claim credit for the projects, explained Ashdown.

“These guys are genetically engineered to bring home the bacon,” said Ashdown. This is the time of the year when lawmakers start putting out press releases showing what they have done for their constituents, he added.

The defense appropriations bill, which President Bush already signed into law, has $7.9 billion in earmarks, 30 percent less than last year, according to TCS. The bill also marks a 19 percent drop in total number in projects from previous years, said Ashdown.  Among the projects considered earmarks by TCS are $588 million for advanced procurement of a second Virginia-class submarine and $480 million for a second engine for the Joint Strike Fighter.