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Feb 6, 2012

The Washington Post | Reports: Washington Post releases unprecedented report on congressional earmarks

Congressional earmarks sometimes used to fund projects near lawmakers' properties

See a project in downtown Tuscaloosa next to property owned by Sen. Richard Shelby. (Video by Ben de la Cruz and David S. Fallis/Motion graphic by Sohail al-Jamea/The Washington Post).

AU.S. senator from Alabama directed more than $100 million in federal earmarks to renovate downtown Tuscaloosa near his own commercial office building. A congressman from Georgia secured $6.3 million in taxpayer funds to replenish the beach about 900 feet from his island vacation cottage. A representative from Michigan earmarked $486,000 to add a bike lane to a bridge within walking distance of her home.
Thirty-three members of Congress have steered more than $300 million in earmarks and other spending provisions to dozens of public projects that are next to or within about two miles of the lawmakers’ own property, according to a Washington Post investigation.

Under the ethics rules Congress has written for itself, this is both legal and undisclosed.
The Post analyzed public records on the holdings of all 535 members and compared them with earmarks members had sought for pet projects, most of them since 2008. The process uncovered appropriations for work in close proximity to commercial and residential real estate owned by the lawmakers or their family members. The review also found 16 lawmakers who sent tax dollars to companies, colleges or community programs where their spouses, children or parents work as salaried employees or serve on boards.
In recent weeks, lawmakers have acknowledged the public’s growing concern that they appeared to be using their positions to enrich themselves. In response, the Senate last week passed legislation that would require lawmakers to disclose mortgages for their residences. The bill, known as the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, would also require lawmakers and executive branch officials to disclosure securities trades of more than $1,000 every 30 days. At the same time, the Senate defeated an amendment, 59-40, that would have permanently outlawed earmarks.

The House is scheduled to vote on the Stock Act on Thursday.

Earmarks have long been controversial, with the focus on spending that unduly favors campaign donors or constituents. The Post’s review is the first systematic effort to examine the alignment of earmarks with lawmakers’ private interests.

Earmarks are a fraction of the federal budget, and the numbers uncovered by The Post are relatively small in the scheme of the overall Congress, but the behavior by lawmakers from both parties points to a larger issue at a time when confidence in Capitol Hill is at an all-time low.
The congressional financial disclosure system obscures certain relationships. Lawmakers are not required to disclose the addresses of their personal residences or the employment of their children and parents. The lawmakers are also allowed to put properties in holding companies without disclosing the properties’ locations. Current versions of the Stock Act would not change that. To provide a fuller portrait of congressional connections, The Post compared the disclosure forms with the public record to track spending on projects near legislators’ properties or on programs employing their relatives.

Financial and Forex Info | The Australian Business Briefing Update: Macquarie axes 1000 jobs

Australian Business update for Tue Feb 6, 2012

Macquarie axes 1000 jobs
Scott Murdoch MACQUARIE Group has cut almost 1000 jobs across its workforce as the bank battles the volatile global economic conditions.

NAB warns in $1.4bn Q1 profit
Scott Murdoch NAB has warned ongoing volatility has cost at least $80 million in revenue, as it put its UK operations on review.

Stocks gain ahead of RBA call
Sarah Turner AUSTRALIAN shares reversed on early losses as investors looked past banking updates to focus on the RBA's interest rate decision.

Transurban in 25pc H1 profit rise
Lisa Macnamara TRANSURBAN reported a 25 per cent jump in first-half profit driven and confirmed its full-year distribution guidance.

Cochlear books H1 loss on recall
Gavin Lower GLOBAL bionic ear maker Cochlear booked a first-half net loss of $20.4 million as a provision for a recall last year hit its result.

Leighton wins $1bn Oz Minerals job
Robb M. Stewart LEIGHTON received a six-year contract worth $1 billion to extend operations at Oz Minerals’ Prominent Hill copper-and-gold mine.

Fewer loans hold back builders
James Glynn RESTRAINED bank lending was behind the 20th consecutive monthly fall in construction activity, Australian Industry Group said today.

Greece cuts 15,000 public jobs
Stelios Bouras and Alkman Granitsas GREECE has agreed to lay off 15,000 public sector workers by the end of 2012, as international pressure mounts on Athens.

Financial Markets

Stocks gain ahead of RBA call
Sarah Turner AUSTRALIAN shares reversed on early losses as investors looked past banking updates to focus on the RBA's interest rate decision.

Stocks build on 2012 gains
Sharp divide in US and Europe oil

Financial Markets Coverage

Mining & Energy

Bradken profit spike misses mark
BRADKEN shares fell today after a 66 per cent profit spike on historically high demand for its products missed market forecasts.

Anglo Pacific mines royalty
Kogas eyes PNG energy fields

More Mining & Energy

2012-02-07 14:00:00.0 House of Representatives
2012-02-07 14:00:00.0 Vanguard: Profiting from volatili...
2012-02-07 13:00:00.0 Southern Cross Goldfields reports...
2012-02-07 12:52:44.0 NAB warns in $1.4bn Q1 profit
2012-02-07 12:51:28.0 Attacks on banks 'political interference'
2012-02-07 12:45:04.0 Macquarie axes 1000 jobs
2012-02-07 12:35:40.0 Stocks gain ahead of RBA call
2012-02-07 12:32:31.0 Dollar lower ahead of rates decision
2012-02-07 12:30:00.0 NewSat signs $180m satellite capa...
2012-02-07 12:07:44.0 Bradken profit spike misses mark
2012-02-07 11:50:43.0 Inquiry into impact of casual work
2012-02-07 11:46:35.0 Stocks build on 2012 gains
2012-02-07 11:42:28.0 Cochlear underlines profit growth
2012-02-07 11:40:05.0 Bank job cuts short-sighted: Shorten
2012-02-07 11:36:50.0 Abbott says 'make my day' on economy

More Business Breaking News

Smartcompany News and Analysis: How four key retail sectors are fighting the internet tide, Wotif co-founder’s new food venture, Frank Zumbo hits back, Cyber bullying lessons

smart company logo image

Today on SmartCompany we talk to South Australia’s new deputy small business commissioner Frank Zumbo, who hits back at criticism of his appointment from franchisors. We also look at fresh calls for an inquiry into the banking sector after the fire sale of SME assets, and talk to the co-founder of Wotif, Andrew Brice, about why he’s backing a new health food venture.

Plus we preview today’s interest rate decision, where a cut looks likely. But as James Thomson warns in Entrepreneur Watch, a cut won’t have much immediate impact on fragile confidence.

For all this and more, head to the home page.

Swimming against the internet tide: Four sectors fighting to stay relevant
The internet has drastically affected several sectors, from music to film processing. The big question is, who is next? BY BRAD HOWARTH.

Managing People
The real cost of workplace bullying
Bullying doesn’t just happen in the schoolyard, it frequently occurs in workplaces too. BY ANDREW DOUGLAS.

Aunty B
I am sick and tired of my board holding me back!
Who says you are stuck with them? In business you get the board you deserve.
Aunty B

People problems
Eve Ash
Employers have a responsibility to help staff who may be suffering from depression or anxiety.
Ask the Experts

Retail trends
Kevin Moore
Our economy will shift gears in 2012 – ceasing to be led by a mining boom. Instead it will be led by jobs growth, in services and retail in particular.
Smart Blogs

Michel Hogan
It’s been a tough week and at the end of it I have a whole new view of the role of an online presence. It’s defense.
Smart Blogs

Entrepreneur Watch
James Thomson
So far the two cuts in official rates in late 2011 haven’t had much impact on the psyche of consumers or business.
Entrepreneur Watch

Coming up

Why the carbon tax will help boost one of Australia’s biggest building inspection groups.

Best wishes,
Amanda Gome
Founder / Publisher