Marks for Earmarking

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Earmarks have been a hot topic on the Hill of late, and a go-to target for debates on wasteful government spending. How do the major candidates for president stack up when it comes to these controversial spending allocations, the ethics around them, and what about the earmarking process should be changed? The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina, takes a look.

Over the past few years a bright light has been shone on the murky practice of trading campaign contributions for favorable earmarks. With Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), Rep. Don Young (R-AK), and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) among others under investigation for doing exactly that, a number of fixes have been proposed from increasing the transparency of the earmarking process, to doing away with it all together:

Earmarking is one way members of Congress drive money towards their districts and shore up support for re-election, the argument being that Members know better the needs of their districts than Congress as a whole. The problem is that so much of the earmarking process is under the radar and free of the scrutiny needed to assess whether there is quid pro quo between donors and members of Congress. New disclosure requirements that open up the earmark process to outside accountability are good first steps, but to ensure that earmarks are not being bought with campaign cash we need to give candidates for Congress a way out of the money chase, and that's only going to happen when we pass the Fair Elections Now Act and publicly fund congressional races.