New Tools for Tracking Earmarks Show Dominance of Defense, Alaska and the University of Hawaii


The top 20 corporate recipients of 2005 earmarks were all defense contractors. The state of Alaska, per capita, had more earmarked funds lavished on it than any other. Almost half of all earmarks were defense-related. The seven companies that landed more then $100 million in earmarks are some of the biggest players in Washington–the sort of firms that spend millions each year lobbying on everything from taxes and trade policy to health care to appropriations issues. The top recipient among universities was in Hawaii.

We’ve taken the latest version of the Office of Management and Budget’s 2005 earmark data, cleaned it up, standardized names and linked subsidiaries with parents. Then we analyzed the data, identifying the top earmark recipients. We visualized it in new and innovative ways (Alaska appears in OMB’s database 235 times, while the much more populous state of Ohio is mentioned only 145 times; click here to see the graphic representation of this and much more). We’re offering our cleaned data for download (here and here), and we’re even providing an analysis of the current state of earmark reform (which hasn’t exactly been working in practice).

The project was a collaborative effort of Larry Makinson (data analysis, standardization and writing), Josh Ruihley (data visualizations and Web development), Anupama Narayanswamy (data analysis, writing), former Sunlighter Carl Anderson (who first started playing around with the OMB 2005 earmarks database), Greg Elin (oversight, good ideas), and me (editing).