House Democratic Caucus Bans Earmarks

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Dealing a blow to business lobbyists, House Democratic leaders on Wednesday banned no-bid contracts to private contractors, often referred to as legislative “earmarks.”
     The move is expected to disrupt the lobbying industry, which relies on securing such multi-million dollar earmarks for their corporate clients.
     The announcement resulted from a Democratic Caucus meeting, and represents the party’s effort to reclaim the reform stance during the 2006 midterm elections, where it won the majority.
     The move is the strongest step Democrats have made in doing away with earmarks since they took control of Congress three years ago. It shadows an earlier rule that lawmakers requesting an earmark be publicly disclosed.
     Lawmakers often use earmarks to steer money to their respective districts but critics of earmarks say they skew the spending process to favor contractors who hire the right lobbyists or who contribute to the campaigns of lawmakers on appropriations committees.
     Under the plan, lawmakers can still attach earmarks steering millions to non-profits.
     The House ethics committee investigating five Democrats and two Republicans on the subcommittee that funds the Pentagon found the lawmakers directed more than $245 million worth of earmarks through a single firm and collected $840,000 in political contributions over a two-year period.
     The lawmakers were ultimately cleared by the ethics committee.

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