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See How Much ‘The Squad’ Has Fleeced From America With Earmarks—Just Since 2023


If anything should finally force a public up-or-down vote on earmarks, it’s the haul won by The Squad during the current 118th Congress.

Since the start of 2023, this small clique of eight far-Left socialists have managed to tack $224 million worth of pet projects onto the spending bills meant to fund core government operations.

One doesn’t need three guesses to start landing on some of the themes addressed repeatedly by their pork-barrel spending. The list includes advancing “environmental justice,” spreading so-called “equity,” aiding illegal immigrants and salvaging bits of the unpopular “Green New Deal” championed by Squad-leader Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D.-N.Y.).

These are the priorities of a new kind of progressivism – neo-Marxism, really – that has grabbed hold of the Democratic Party’s bullhorn. But every dime of it has been aided and abetted by Republicans.

Earmarks had been banned for a decade before the House GOP held a secret vote to join Democrats and reinstate the practice three years ago.

Since then, billions have flowed to vanity projects, frivolous or downright silly projects, employers of spouses, and items that should be funded at the state or local levels where officials better understand the community’s needs.

The late Sen. Tom Coburn (R.-Okla.) called earmarks the “currency of corruption” for a reason – the projects are too often self-interested, self-aggrandizing, wasteful, or all three.

It’s bipartisan corruption that’s spending America straight into bankruptcy.

Last year’s spending bill was proof: our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com, an organization I founded and lead, found $16 billion worth of earmarks in the $1.7 trillion fiscal 2023 year-end omnibus bill, and seven of the top 10 biggest earmark culprits were Republicans.

This year, it was $15.7 billion across 8,051 earmarks in two “minibus” measures in March 2024.

But in order for a Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) to stuff $50 million into the University of Alabama’s endowment fund (a university that hosts his Senate archive), we also get gems like these from Squad members:

  • $1 million to build “a network of intergenerational, trauma-informed waterfront green spaces,” won by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). The project had previously won $792,000 more in a 2022 earmark. Do we ask the obvious? How exactly does trauma dictate a park design?
  • $1 million for the San Antonio College Empowerment Center, which runs an Undocumented Student Support Program to help immigrants enroll in the school. The sponsor is Rep. Greg Casar (D-Texas), who is closer to the illegal immigration crisis than most, but wants to create a college education magnet for them.
  • $850,000 to create jobs and affordable housing near George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, won by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). The square was reportedly a “no-go” zone for police amid the riots following Floyd’s death. Now, Omar saysthat “added to the stress faced by the community and increased the need for support and stability in housing and commerce.” In other words, federal taxpayers need to step in and clean up the damage.

Following last week’s 2 a.m. passage of the final six spending bills for this year, the Squad’s total ticked up from $218 million to $224.1 million—all borrowed against our enormous national debt. The two “minibus” packages this month alone contained 215 earmarks from these eight individuals.

In a constant cycle of crises and 11th-hour, late-night votes, a perverse Mary Poppins method of governing has taken hold again. A spoonful of corrupt sugar (earmarks) makes the medicine – massive, wasteful trillion-dollar spending bills – go down.

There’s just one problem. We can’t afford more spending with the national debt exceeding $34 trillion. Instead, we need a bold plan to stop Congress from bankrupting this country.

We can start with banning earmarks. This election year, Americans deserve to know whether their members support earmarks. Let’s see who’s in or who’s out on earmarks.

Congressional leaders need to give taxpayers the courtesy of a public vote on this madness.

Adam Andrzejewski is CEO and founder of OpenTheBooks.com, the largest private database of public spending. The organization is running a petition to demand an up-or-down vote on earmarks.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.


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