The group Taxpayers for Common Sense has placed both of Iowa’s U.S. Senators on a top ten list for a controversial kind of federal spending known as earmarks. Otherwise called "pork barrel" spending, earmarks are direct appropriations for projects back home.
Taxpayers for common sense analyzed nearly 8 billion dollars in earmarks in a giant appropriations bill to fund the federal government for the rest of the year. Tom Harkin was fourth for co-sponsoring earmarks worth over 290 million. Chuck Grassley was tenth with just under 200 million.
Grassley agrees with critics who say earmarks should be banned. "I have voted for rules not to have earmarks, but I was overruled," Grassley said. "We decided to have earmarks, so I feel Iowans should have a level playing field with each of the other states." Grassley says there’s nothing secret about the way the two Iowa lawmakers seek funding for constituents.
"We have to forward justification to the appropriations committee. And we also have to put our name with it now so that nobody can accuse Senator Grassley or Harkin of sneaking anything through. We’ve always been transparent about it," Grassley said. Harkin says he’s proud to have his name on the earmarks. In debate on the appropriations bill, Harkin defended proposed spending for one Iowa project – research on hog odor.
Grassley says the totals for both himself and Senator Harkin are inflated by the fact that they co-sponsored proposals for projects on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, along with other senators.