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June 14, 2011 10:00 AM Earmarks Light

By Daniel Luzer

Despite a much-touted Republican plan to forbid earmarks, the recently military funding bill was full of what appear to be essentially earmarks for projects at universities.

According to an article by Theo Emery in the Boston Globe:

Under a new system instituted just months after House GOP leaders pledged to clamp down on earmarks, the $690 billion defense bill that the House passed late last month included hundreds of millions of dollars in added spending authorizations. Though the process is nominally competitive, the requests in many cases appear destined for districts of lawmakers who proposed them.
Among them is $4 million that Representative Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts requested “to develop innovative nanomaterials and nanomanufacturing processes for warfighter systems.’’

Technically something like that request is not an earmark. Such funding is not specifically designated for a particular place. But it’s pretty clear that there are only a few such places where that money could really go. As the article explains:

Representatives, both Republican and Democrat, added some 250 amendments to the spending bill.

Republican Representative Allen West of Florida—a man who in March said “What happens in Washington, D.C., is truly a spending problem; if we do not turn this thing around … the economic situation here in the United States of America is a fiscal Armageddon,”—added an amendment seeking $2.5 million for Navy research into “magnetic and electric fields of the coastal ocean environment.’’

Last year West’s predecessor, Ron Klein, got $2 million for the exact same purpose in the budget. The money went to Florida Atlantic University, a college in West’s district.

A West spokeswoman said that she “does not consider it an earmark.’’ She maintains that the $2.5 million wasn’t intended for specific recipients. Right. West’s just really interested in ensuring that America’s magnetic and electric fields are well studied. It’s for the good of the country, you know.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer