Report: Lawmakers Steered Earmarks Near Their Own Properties

Posted February 6, 2012 at 9:11pm

This week’s discussion on Congressional ethics just got kicked up a few decibels.

A massive investigative report by the Washington Post posted online this evening will keep the spotlight on earmarks and insider trading in the days to come.

According to the Post, 33 Members of Congress steered more than $300 million in earmarks and other targeted spending to public projects within two miles of land they owned.

For example, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett has secured $4.5 million to upgrade a highway interchange that serves his 104-acre farm and other rental properties he owns.

The Maryland Republican and other lawmakers deny they pushed the projects for personal gain, but the report comes at a time when confidence in Congress is at an all-time low, according to pollsters.

For those reasons, the report will likely fuel further pushes to change Congressional ethics rules — not to mention attack ads in the fall elections.

In November, a report on possible conflicts of interest on Members of Congress’ stock picks by the TV newsmagazine “60 Minutes” helped push the STOCK Act into the spotlight. That bill would require faster disclosure of stock trades and ban insider trading by lawmakers.

It passed the Senate on a lopsided 96-3 vote last week and is awaiting House action.

Efforts to end earmarks, however, had stalled recently.

At the beginning of 2011, lawmakers voluntarily took a two-year break from earmarks, the practice of directing money to specific projects through Congress’ annual spending bills.

But an attempt by Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) to make the ban permanent failed 40-59 last week.