(Published in The Press of Atlantic City on Friday, April 10, 2009.)
Southern New Jersey’s congressional delegation met a federal deadline for publicly posting their funding requests, revealing for the first time how much money they are seeking for various projects.
U.S. Reps. Frank LoBiondo, John Adler and Rob Andrews, D-1st, all posted their earmark requests on their Web sites before last week’s deadline, the first time House members were required to do so.
They also revealed how much they requested, data that had not previously been available. In the past, only the earmarks actually funded were available.
LoBiondo, R-2nd, requested $193,025,432 in federal funding for a variety of projects, ranging from waterfront protection and beach restoration to defense funding on military bases and for private contractors. Last year, he ranked 183rd in the House by obtaining $14 million, according to a database kept by the nonprofit Taxpayers for Common Sense.
Adler, D-3rd, surpassed LoBiondo, despite having less than four months in Congress, with requests totaling $237,776,878.
Because such information has never been publicly revealed before, it was difficult to put the total request figures in context with other members of the House. The most a member of Congress secured — not requested — in 2008 was then-Rep. Roger Wicker, R-Mo., with $177,958,500. In comparison, some members of Congress refuse to request earmarks.
“Other lawmakers have treated earmark requests like monopoly money and ask for the sun, the moon and the stars, when they get far less,” said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense.
Fewer than 300 House members met Saturday’s deadline for posting their earmark requests, according to the nonprofit Sunlight Foundation, which tracked them all. The data is available for most members, but primarily in raw lists without totals, so comparisons must be done by adding up each individual lawmaker’s list of itemized earmarks.
Members of Congress posted the earmarks data on their Web sites with varying degrees of access and detail. As part of transparency reform by the House, each was required to include: The project for which funding is requested, a short description, how much money is requested and who requested it.
Whereas some buried their earmarks in obscure parts of their Web site, others are easily accessible, such as Andrews’ list linked from the front page of his Web site. One could view a list of LoBiondo’s or Adler’s earmarks after two mouse clicks, with Adler’s posted on his news page and LoBiondo’s on his legislation page.
Adler’s descriptions of projects are short, typically two-to-three sentences.
LoBiondo’s are more detailed and also include links to copies of the original letters that were sent to LoBiondo seeking the funding. As a result, one cannot only see what the project is, but the reader can see exactly what was formally requested of LoBiondo.
“We put it in a section of the web page that would be as easy as possible for constituents to find and make sense with other legislation,” said Jason Galanes, a spokesman for LoBiondo.
Galanes noted that the earmarks LoBiondo requested were not all the earmarks that others requested of him. LoBiondo’s staff vets requests before submitting them in their own right.
Most of his requests are for military funding and coastal protection. He sought $103,748,000 for coastal projects along the Atlantic Ocean, Delaware Bay and Delaware River, most of which would be handled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He sought another $51,386,000 for nine military projects, three of which pertain to the 177th Fighter Wing in Egg Harbor Township, five for private contractors, and one for McGuire Air Force Base.
Adler said he tried to focus a majority of his requests on job creation, but most of the actual money he is seeking is military-oriented, comprising $185,872,500 of his total. Both McGuire Air Force Base and Fort Dix are in his district, and both would benefit from 10 of his requests.
In some cases, they put in joint requests with other members. For example, both Adler and LoBiondo both requested $650,000 to fund cranberry and blueberry research at Rutgers University.
E-mail Daniel Walsh: DWalsh@pressofac.com
Notable project types LoBiondo Adler
Military $51,386,000 $185,872,500
Shore protection $103,748,000
Public land buys & sewers $11,770,000
Medical & science research $7,421,690
Transportation & urban dev. $5,650,000
Total $193,025,432 $237,776,878
* Adler did not break down his earmarks by type or bill in which they were included.
$1,050,000 — Purchase land adjacent to Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.
$2,700,000 — Improve Route 72 and East Road in Stafford Township.
$2,000,000 — L3 Communications will develop system to track patients during transport.
$3,150,000 — Purchase land at Forsythe, Cape May National and Supawna National Wildlife Refuges.
$15,100,000 — Improvements at 177th Fighter Wing.
$11,000,000 — L3 Communications develops improved military communications systems