Seven of top 10 lawmakers with most earmarks in last spending bill were Republicans, watchdog says

Open the Books' auditors "reviewed the 7,509 disclosed earmarks amounting to $16 billion in taxpayer costs."

Published: July 1, 2023 12:44am

Seven of the 10 lawmakers with the most earmarks in the last congressional spending bill were Republicans, according to a new watchdog report.

The findings were made by, which reviewed the 7,509 disclosed earmarks amounting to what the nonprofit, nonpartisan government watchdog group found to be "$16 billion in taxpayer costs."

Now-retired GOP Sen. Richard Shelby, of Alabama, took the top spot, followed by retired Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, of Oklahoma. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, came in third.

The report – titled "Earmarks, The Return of the Swamp Creatures" – found that the top 3 lawmakers accounted for $1.656 billion of the roughly $16 billion in total earmarks.

Republican Sens. Lindsay Graham, of South Carolina, Bill Cassidy, of Louisiana, Susan Collins, of Maine, and now-retired Roy Blunt, of Missouri, also made the top 10. (Collins tied for 10th with fellow Maine Sen. Angus King, an Independent.)

Retiring Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy was 8th on their list while Hawaii Democrat Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz came in 4th.

Texas GOP Rep. Randy Weber was ranked in 6th place on the list.

Overall, congressional Republicans "out-earmarked their Democratic colleagues in 21 states including Texas, Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma, Maine, and South Carolina," according to the report.

Still, Democrats earmarked more than Republicans overall – with $9.1 billion compared to $6.4 billion for the GOP lawmakers. And a bipartisan group of legislators earmarked $476 million, the report also found. 

Retiring U.S. senators "earmarked $10 million for institutions to host their archives," the report found.

"Then, at least three of those top earmarking senators sent tens of millions of dollars more on more earmarks to those same institutions (that are already paid to host their archives)," read the report.

The earmarks were tucked inside the "Consolidated Appropriations Act 2023 (H.R. 2617)" that was signed into law by President Joe Biden on December 29, 2022.

Just the News reported on many of the big-ticket earmarks when the $1.7 trillion spending bill was moving its way through Congress in December.

Some of the earmarks highlighted in the Open the Books report include $1 million for a "splash pad" in Center Line, Michigan; $2.5 million for "landscaping the road medians" in La Mirada, California; and $3.6 million for "phase II of the Michelle Obama trail" in Atlanta.

According to the report's findings, Maryland Democratic Rep. Kweisi Mfume earmarked $2 million to the National Great Blacks Wax Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, "which is not only located in his district – but also the maker of a – you guessed it – Kweisi Mfume wax figure!," the report also reads.

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