"Members of Congress defend earmarks as federal funds they need for projects that will help their local districts.
But the taxpayers' money goes to such projects as finding ways to utilize wood, preventing brown tree snakes on Guam and supporting California's vibrant wine industry -- in all 50 states and for much longer than originally intended.
Take "wood utilization" research. Since 1995, taxpayers have spent nearly $100 million to find ways to utilize wood. And even though 12 federal agencies already preserve, promote and protect trees and the timber industry, congressmen from 11 states tack on another $4 million a year for similar projects.
Money for shrimp aquaculture has been funded yearly since 1985, and lawmakers recently added 74 earmarks worth $76 million to help shrimp farmers in states like Arizona and Texas. This year they want $2.9 million more.
Other earmarks include: $15 million to prevent brown tree snakes in Hawaii and Guam.
Heritage Foundation economist Brian Riedl say some earmarks stay in the budget year after year, often because they have the same campaign contributors who are effectively buying a government grant.
"And once Congress develops special interest with the recipient, they keep going back to the well. And the result is no matter how wasteful and stupid some of these earmarks are, like utilization research, you just can't get rid of them," Riedl says."
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