Disparity in Earmarks by Race

A recent Congressional Quarterly study analyzed data from Taxpayers for Common Sense and found that when it comes to earmarks there is almost a 2 to 1 difference in dollars going to the districts of white members as to those districts represented by black members.  Of the $4.2 billion in earmarks included in bills passed by the House and Senate this year the average white Democrat got $12 million in special projects. Black Democrats got $6.1 million and Hispanic Dems got $5.7 million. Interestingly enough, minorities in the Democratic Caucus got less on average than the $8.7 million that the average Republican secured.

And here’s an bizarre solution suggested: members of the Congressional Black Caucus have called on the House leadership to address the disparity. Rep. William Lacy Clay of St. Louis and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) of Kansas City suggest expanding the House Appropriations Committee by two members, with both seats going to black reps.

Update: One of my colleagues suggested that I should extend this post and say more. There’s no question that if two members were added to the Approps Committee that they would instantly see the amount of their own earmarks shoot upwards, which would certainly improve the average (since members of appropriations lead the pack when it comes to earmarks) without necessarily disparity of funds won by minority members overall. It’s a solution that would hide the disparity, not solve it. And it’s certainlynot a solution to unaccountable earmarking at all.