This week’s Indicators focuses on the earmarks New Mexico’s congressional delegation is hauling in. Regardless of what you think of the whole pork phenomenon—political corruption? community development? something in between?—it’s always interesting to see where all the (taxpayer) money goes.
Without further ado, we'll start with some of the big stuff and work our way down into the nitty-gritty of New Mexico's earmarks.
Top earmark recipients (FY 2010):
The top three recipients generally received a smattering of earmarks for different parks, forests and wilderness areas across the US. OpenSecrets.org, where SFR got this data, doesn't list exactly what the money was used for.
The University of Alabama topped the list in FY09, with the bulk of its earmarks going to weather and engineering research projects. But here's where things get interesting: The far column lists the amount of money spent on lobbying. At $360,000 Alabama's is a mere drop in the bucket. To wit:
That's the list of top recipients sorted by money spent on lobbying. Defense contractors are in gray.
On to New Mexico, then. Here's a close-up of the graphic we used in the story, showing the earmarks each legislator landed in FY 2010:
As you'll see, our top rainmaker is Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman, with $121.6 million in total earmarks. (That includes all bills with Bingaman's name on them; often, they're shared with other NM Senators or Reps.)
Bingaman also happens to be the one with the lowest percentage of earmarks going to campaign contributors (1.9%). Democratic Sen. Tom Udall runs a close second to Bingaman in both categories: $116 million and change in earmarks, with 2.0% going to contributors. US Reps don't generally do as well, bringing in between $10 and $56 million in earmarks with higher percentages for contributors.
But as with everything government, it's not that simple. Check out Bingaman and Udall's top earmark recipients:
$20.2 million to White Sands Missile Range and Air Force bases (Holloman, Cannon)
$11.6 million to defense contractors (General Atomics, Northrop Grumman and Goodrich)
$10.1 million to the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology for homeland security
Democratic Rep. Harry Teague, who brought in the highest earmarks of the state's US Reps (and gave the highest percentage, 13.5%, to contributors), upped his total by signing onto the big defense awards.
The only one who didn't was Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who helped pour $2.8 million into the New Mexico Army National Guard but whose biggest single project was an acequia irrigation system ($2.4 million).
Thanks to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, it's easy to search out this stuff—so if that's not enough, you can still dig to your heart's content.