In a Washington Post investigation of congressional earmarks, two Washington lawmakers -- U.S. Reps. Norm Dicks and Doc Hastings -- have been called on the carpet for the questionable use of federal earmarks. They are among 33 members of Congress who, according to the Post's probe, have directed more than $300 million in earmarks and other "spending provisions" to dozens of public projects near the legislator's own property.
Rep. Norm Dicks
Here's what the Post had to say about Dicks:
In 2008, Dicks, as an appropriations chairman, secured a $1.82 million earmark for a Washington state environmental agency where his son worked as executive director, according to White House records. Over the next three years, the congressman also sent $15 million to the Environmental Protection Agency, which gave the funds in noncompetitive grants to his son's agency, the Puget Sound Partnership. "I don't think there was a conflict. We are all trying our best to restore Puget Sound," Dicks said.
As for Hastings:
In 2009, Hastings secured a $750,000 earmark to replace an outdated railroad underpass with a new bridge in Pasco, Wash. Columbia Basin Paper & Supply, a janitorial business that Hastings owned and ran until he was elected, is about three blocks to the west. His brother now operates the company, but Hastings and his wife still own the land and the building. Hastings said the location of his property had no bearing on his support for the project. "Every business in Pasco will benefit," he said.
Click here for capsule summaries on the other 31 members the Post identified as the most earmark-prone lawmakers.
In compiling its list of the pork-friendly, the Post scrutinized public records of the holdings of all 535 House and Senate members and compared them with earmarks legislators had sought for pet projects, most of them since 2008.
Among its findings was a U.S. senator from Alabama who directed more than $100 million in federal earmarks to renovate downtown Tuscaloosa near his own commercial office building. A congressman from Georgia secured $6.3 million in taxpayer funds to replenish the beach about 900 feet from his island vacation cottage. A representative from Michigan earmarked $486,000 to add a bike lane to a bridge within walking distance of her home.
Dicks, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Appropriation Committee's defense subcommittee -- which crafts the Pentagon's funding bill --has long had a love/hate relationship with earmarks.
In March 2010, Dick was one of the architects of a policy to ban corporate earmarks. Still, the 17-term Washington Democrat has been labeled the "Prince of Pork" for the millions in earmarks he collects for the state.
The only senator neighboring Washington to make the list was Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. According to the Post:
Murkowski co-sponsored $6.9 million worth of earmarks between 2005 and 2009 for a road project that began near property she purchased from a friend and real estate developer at a reduced price. After media reports about the land deal, Murkowski sold the parcel back to the developer. Murkowski said through a spokesman that she had long backed the project with the support of local and state officials. "All my efforts and actions were proper on this project," she said.