Remember the ‘ban’ on earmarks?

When Illinois Republican Robert Schilling was running for the House last year, he based part of his platform on his opposition to earmarks. “We need earmark reform that improves transparency, roots out corruption and eliminates wasteful spending,” he wrote in an op-ed two weeks before the election. “My opponent never met an earmark he didn’t like.”

Schilling is now a freshman GOP House member, and one of many lawmakers who’s finding ways around his party’s ban on earmarks.

A six-month study of this year’s defense authorization bill has identified 115 spending proposals as earmarks worth $834 million, including 20 by Republican freshmen who campaigned against the pet projects, according to a copy of the report provided to The Washington Post.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), whose staff produced the study, called the behavior a “bold flaunting” of the GOP-led moratorium on earmarks. She chastised Republican House members for removing documents about earmarks from their Web sites that would have made it easier to identify the practice.

“It was perplexing that so many Republicans had scrubbed their Web sites,” said McCaskill, who on Friday gave copies of the report to the chairman and ranking member of the Armed Services Committee. “If you are going to tout the earmarks you received, why not remain transparent? For me, the entire thing is disappointing.”

For the record, I don’t much care about earmarks, and tend to think politicians make too much of this. For many, “earmark” is synonymous with “wasteful spending,” and that’s really not the case.

That said, consistency counts. If congressional Republicans are going to boast about their prohibition on earmarks, and get elected on a promise to steer clear of earmarks, there’s a problem when they ignore their own ban and do the opposite of what they said they’d do.

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