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Congressional Earmarks FAQ

About Earmarks

What distinguishes an earmark from other appropriations?
Answer: Earmarks are provisions in appropriations bills that allocate funds for a very specific project, location, or institution, often in the congressional district of a member of Congress. Also, earmarked funds are directed and allocated absent the competitive bidding process required for other government funding.
What is an earmark?
Answer: The term ‘earmark’ generally refers to a federal expenditure that is specifically directed to apply to a particular local project or program, usually within the congressional district of the provision’s author. Though typically local, earmarked funds may also be allocated for national and regional programs. An earmark might be for a one-time expenditure or it might specify a certain amount of money to spent over a period of time.
What is a presidential earmark?
Answer: A presidential earmark is a request for a specific program or other appropriation included in the budget request submitted by the president to the Congress.
What is an 'airdropped' earmark?
Answer: The term 'airdropped' is used to describe an earmark that is not included in the original legislation as approved by either the House or Senate but is later mysteriously inserted into the conference committee reports, which combine both chambers' versions of the bill.
What is the source of LegiStorm's earmark data?
Answer: The data contained in our earmarks database has been generously provided by the Taxpayers for Common Sense, who researched, compiled and analyzed the original data. You can visit their site here:
How can I view the complete list of earmarks for a given year?
Answer: The easiest way to see a list of all earmarks is to perform a search without any criteria. Just click 'search' on the earmarks home page and select the year or years you want to include in the results.
Why would an earmark have a total amount of $0?
Answer: An earmark might be requested in the House or Senate version of an appropriations bill but fail to be included in the final legislation. By viewing the details of a specific earmark, you can see the amounts requested by each chamber in addition to the final amount appropriated. The final amount is $0 if the earmark is not authorized in the final spending bill.
What does it mean when an earmark is allocated to 'various', 'regional' or 'unknown' locations?
Answer: Earmarked funds sometimes apply to projects and programs that cross state borders or are not located in a specific location. Additionally, a location description might be withheld for security purposes, particularly with concern to defense-related appropriations.
How extensive is your earmark database?
Answer: We maintain a database of earmarks for fiscal years 2008 and 2009.
What are judicial earmarks?
Answer: Judicial earmarks are often for construction projects concerning federal courthouses, usually in the requesting members' districts.