It’s a modern-day gold rush in Washington as special interests converge on the Congress and lawmakers jockey for their share of member-directed spending, formerly known as earmarks, that allows members to claim goodies they can bring home to the voters.
These congressional favors, back and rebranded after a 10-year ban prompted by wretched excess, a misuse of taxpayer money, and outright criminal corruption are expected to smooth the way forward in a new era of deal-making for lawmakers and lobbyists alike to get a piece of Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan.
“Member-directed is the new vernacular,” says Paul Equale, a former Democratic lobbyist. “It’s about bringing home the bacon and getting credit for it.” That simple premise is at the heart of a representative democracy, but bridges to nowhere and golf courses with no redeeming social value ended the practice. Only a third of today’s House members and fewer than half the senators were around for those glory days of personalized largesse.