Jacob Sullum

By contrast, Obama seems to think the main problem with earmarks is a lack of visibility. To his credit, the Illinois senator co-sponsored (along with McCain) legislation that has made information about earmarks more readily available than ever before. He says earmark spending should be reduced, suggesting much of it is inappropriate.

Yet Obama, who is in his first term, also complains that earmarks are distributed based on seniority rather than "merit," and he worries that obtaining funding is too difficult for cities and nonprofit groups. One man's pork is another's job-generating, life-enhancing boon. Obama surely thinks all his earmark requests, which last year included money for theaters, museums, and hospitals in Chicago, are perfectly justified.

That goes quadruple for Hillary Clinton. According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, Clinton placed 10th in the Senate pork pulling competition last year, obtaining a total of $342 million in earmarks, almost four times Obama's haul. In the 2008 defense authorization bill, the New York senator received $148 million in earmarks, more than anyone except the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Her earmark total from 2002 to 2006 was $2.2 billion.

But according to Clinton, these expenditures, including money for "local artist space" in Buffalo, firefighting equipment in Oswego, "clean fuel buses" in Syracuse, the Historic Seneca Knitting Mill in Rochester, and the Eleanor Roosevelt Center in Val-Kill, are not earmarks. They are "Investments in New York," and she is "very proud" of every one.

Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
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