in defense of earmarks: can earmarks foster a more productive congress?

Open Access
Rogers, Harrison Fitzgerald
Area of Honors:
International Politics
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • David Lynn Lowery, Thesis Supervisor
  • Gretchen G Casper, Honors Advisor
  • Gretchen G Casper, Faculty Reader
  • earmarks
  • legislative productivity
  • Congress
  • appropriations
  • House
  • Senate
  • Presidency
  • federal
  • PAC contributions
This paper explores the connection between earmark allocations and legislative productivity in Congress from 1993 and 2012. I hypothesize that members use earmark allocations to buy political support for controversial legislation. This exchange between members increases the likelihood of passing legislation without compromising the language in the bill. Therefore, I theorize that more earmark allocations in a given fiscal year will increase legislative productivity in the corresponding session of Congress. To that end, I expect the 2006 and 2010 earmark moratoriums to have a negative effect on legislative productivity in the years after they were enacted. Given the results of my statistical analysis, I find that (1) the moratoriums effectively stopped earmark spending; and (2) there exists a positive correlation between earmark allocations and legislative productivity. These results support the theory that the earmark moratoriums helped decrease legislative productivity between 2007 and 2013.