Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- When Congress announced a ban on budget earmarks earlier this year, many believed that the wasteful spending practice had been killed once and for all.

Last February, Democrat Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee chairman, gave the eulogy. "The president has stated unequivocally that he will veto any legislation containing earmarks, and the House will not pass any bills that contain them. Given the reality before us, it makes no sense to accept earmark requests that have no chance of being enacted into law."

Well, a new study suggests that doesn't seem to be the case.

It turns out that this corrupt, backdoor spending practice that has wasted untold billions on pet projects back home is alive and well, though apparently cloaked in procedural and application mumbo-jumbo to make it look legitimate.

A six-month investigation by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., discovered 115 earmarks in this year's defense authorization bill -- 40 of them from House Republicans (many of whom ran against earmarks) and 75 from House Democrats.

Another 31 earmarks were found, but apparently there was insufficient information to identify their congressional accomplices.

Among McCaskill's findings was a $2.5 million line item inserted into the House bill by Republican Rep. Robert T. Schilling, a freshman, for Quad City Manufacturing Lab at the Rock Island Arsenal in Rock Island, Ill. If all goes according to plan, the money will be used for the development of innovative manufacturing techniques and process for munitions and weapons systems.

Notably, the language used in Schilling's request matched the language that his Democratic predecessor used in previous earmarks.

But Schilling's aides maintain that what they added to the military authorization bill was not an earmark, but a request for funding that the lab would have to duly apply for under the government's usual contracting process.

Schilling, part of the wave of GOP conservatives who took control of the House in the midterm elections, wrote in a local website last year, 'We need earmark reform that improves transparency, roots out corruption and eliminates wasteful spending. My opponent never met an earmark he didn't like.'

McCaskill, a dyed-in-the-wool liberal who's been one of President Obama's biggest supporters, doesn't have clean hands on this issue, either.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.