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Auditors: Senior appropriators’ states dominate earmark tally

Government Accountability Office report required by new earmark disclosure rules shows where the money goes

Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, right, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, were both among the top recipients of earmarks for their states.
Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, right, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, were both among the top recipients of earmarks for their states. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

States represented by top Senate appropriators received a disproportionately high amount of earmarked dollars in the final fiscal 2022 appropriations package, according to data compiled in a congressionally directed report by the Government Accountability Office. 

Alaska, home of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the top Republican on the Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, received the most funding per person at $339 and a total of $248.4 million, which is good for 12th nationwide — not bad for a remote locale straddling the Arctic Circle.

Vermont, home of Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, a Democrat, was second per capita with $321 per person, a CQ Roll Call analysis of the GAO data found, for a total of $207.2 million in the fiscal 2022 omnibus.

California, the largest state in population, led the way with $774.1 million in overall funding, and New York, with $425 million, was also close to the top of the list, finishing third. But per capita, California received a paltry $19.73 per resident, with New York just slightly higher at $21.43

Alabama, home of top Senate GOP appropriator Richard C. Shelby, was second overall, receiving $590.2 million. South Carolina, home to appropriator Sen. Lindsey Graham, the ranking member of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, and House Democratic Whip James E. Clyburn, was fourth overall with $372.8 million. 

Missouri, home to Republican Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Roy Blunt, finished fifth with $310.6 million. With none of their representatives requesting earmarks during the fiscal 2022 process, residents of Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota received $0 per person. 

Every state receiving more than $100 in earmarked funds per resident is represented by a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. In addition to Alaska, Vermont and Alabama, the top tier for earmarks in relation to population included:

  • Hawaii, home to Senate Transportation-HUD Appropriations Chair Brian Schatz, a Democrat.
  • West Virginia, represented by Shelley Moore Capito — top Republican on Homeland Security appropriations — and Democrat Joe Manchin III, another panel member who also chairs Energy and Natural Resources.
  • Maine, home to Sen. Susan Collins, top Republican on Transportation-HUD and heir apparent to Shelby at the full committee.
  • Rhode Island, represented by Democrat Jack Reed, who chairs the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee as well as the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The GAO report, released Sept. 12, was produced as part of new transparency rules for the process instituted by Leahy and House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. Congress allocated a total of $9.1 billion to 4,963 individual projects for fiscal 2022. 

Other GAO findings include: 

  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Transportation lead the way in earmarked funding, with $1.5 billion each. The Pentagon and Department of Health and Human Services both also received over $1 billion, getting just under $1.3 billion each. 
  • Tribal, state, territorial and local governments were the leading recipients, with $4.1 billion in funding going to those entities. The federal government received $2.1 billion, higher education institutions received $1.1 billion, and other nonprofit organizations received $1.7 billion.
  • Natural resources and the environment, and community and regional development were the top two broad budgetary categories for earmarks, with $1.7 billion allocated to each budget function. Transportation, national defense and health all also topped the $1 billion mark.

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