Earmarks for Research, Including University Projects, Total $44-Million in 2012, Group Says

April 17, 2012

Research projects, including university studies, received $44-million in earmarked funds from Congress in 2012, according to a report released by a nonpartisan group on Tuesday.

The report, "2012 Congressional Pig Book," was produced by the group Citizens Against Government Waste, whose stated mission is to eliminate wasteful spending in government. The organization has been publishing the book since 1991 as a compendium of what it deems to be wasteful spending for pet projects that individual members of Congress insert into larger bills for passage.

According to the report, research and university research centers received a total of $44-million in earmarks in spending approved for the 2012 fiscal year. The group also found that, between 1994 and 2010, a total of $66.9-million in earmarks were directed to university research.

Still, these amounts represent a significantly smaller sum than what institutions have received from Congress in the past. By comparison, earmarks brought about $2.25-billion to colleges and universities in 2008, according to a comprehensive analysis by The Chronicle.

The anti-waste group found the total cost of earmarks has dropped by 80 percent over the past two years—from $16.5-billion in 2010 to $3.3-billion in 2012—the lowest amount since 1992. The decline in so-called pork-barrel spending is a result of the moratorium on earmarks that Congress enacted last year in light of public outcry over the practice. The temporary ban led some colleges and universities to anticipate a significant blow to their funds for research and other projects.

Despite the moratorium, some members of Congress are still trying to sneak in earmarks, according to a 2011 report by the staff of Sen. Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri. And while there have been proposals to make the moratorium permanent, there have also been talks of earmarks making a comeback, as some members of Congress have argued they are necessary to build consensus when passing bills.

Tom Schatz, the president of the anti-waste group, said reversing the moratorium would reinforce a corrupt system.

"Such a decision would bring back a deceptive practice that encourages backroom deal-making, vote swapping, and other political gamesmanship," he said in a news release.