These principles begin with a simple concept: Earmarks must have a legitimate and worthy public purpose. Earmarks that members do seek must be aired on those members’ websites in advance, so the public and the press can examine them and judge their merits for themselves. Each earmark must be open to scrutiny at public hearings, where members will have to justify their expense to the taxpayer.
Next, any earmark for a for-profit private company should be subject to the same competitive bidding requirements as other federal contracts. The awarding of earmarks to private companies is the single most corrupting element of this practice, as witnessed by some of the indictments and convictions that we’ve already seen. Private companies differ from the public entities that Americans rely on every day –- schools, and police stations, and fire departments.
When somebody is allocating money to those public entities, there’s some confidence that there’s going to be a public purpose. When they are given to private entities, you’ve got potential problems. You know, when you give it to public companies — public entities like fire departments, and if they are seeking taxpayer dollars, then I think all of us can feel some comfort that the state or municipality that’s of benefit is doing so because it’s going to trickle down and help the people in that community. When they’re private entities, then I believe they have to be evaluated with a higher level of scrutiny.
Furthermore, it should go without saying that an earmark must never be traded for political favors.
And finally, if my administration evaluates an earmark and determines that it has no legitimate public purpose, then we will seek to eliminate it, and we’ll work with Congress to do so.