Earmarks in Federal Budget Reaping Millions for Nonprofits
Washington, D.C., March 13, 2009, The Examiner — Over and above the tens of millions for D.C. schools, courts, infrastructure and the Metrorail system found in the massive federal spending bill is more than $10 million earmarked by Congress for District-based organizations.
Buried in the $410 billion appropriations bill are a bevy of earmarks directed to two dozen D.C. nonprofits and institutions for a host of projects in health care, education, child safety and other areas. The legislation as a whole features roughly 9,000 earmarks totaling about $7.7 billion, a whopping figure given the weak economy and promises from both political parties to crack down on the practice.
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton distributed more than $5 million in earmarks, including $2.85 million to the Children’s National Medical Center for pediatric surgical center renovations, $368,464 to Safe Kids Worldwide Inc. for a child safety initiative and $196,514 to the Capital Area Food Bank for capital construction.
“People come in and see me and they ask for it,” Norton said Thursday. “I don’t go out and ask, ‘Do you need money?’ Desperate organizations come in, and then we take them all down and we try to see who’s most needy.”
Norton, a Democrat, divvied out less than half of the D.C.-related earmarks. Among the others:
- The National Council of La Raza received $476,000 for its early childhood education center, courtesy of Sens. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J.
- The Washington Jesuit Academy received $238,000 for mentoring, thanks to Sens. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.
- George Washington University received $141,000 to provide D.C. Public School students with “opportunities to pursue health profession careers,” thanks to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
Earmarking will continue in future budgets, Norton said, despite calls to end or severely curtail the practice. But there will be “total transparency,” she said, rationed amounts and, perhaps, new rules to strike earmarks that have no public purpose.