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Few lawmakers secure earmarks for North Carolina

Camp Lejeune sign
Google Earth

North Carolina lawmakers secured relatively few earmarks for the state, meaning less federal investment in local projects relative to other states.

Earmarking, the process of lawmakers directing federal spending to specific projects in their home state or district, was eliminated a decade ago after being linked with corruption. Lawmakers revived it this year as part of the $1.5 trillion budget bill signed by President Joe Biden in March.

Congress published a set of documents with details about the 4,975 approved projects, but did so in PDF files. The Bipartisan Policy Center converted those files into spreadsheets. WUNC used those spreadsheets for its analysis.

Earmarks secured by NC lawmaker
US Congress/Bipartisan Policy Center
Earmarks secured by NC lawmaker

North Carolina will see $232 million in earmarks, or just 2.4% of the $9.7 billion in total earmarks going to projects across the country. South Carolina lawmakers secured $373 million for their state.

Retiring Sen. Richard Burr secured by far the most for the state. The $129 million he secured across 18 projects accounts for more than half of all earmarked dollars coming to the state. The amount of earmarks secured by Burr ranks him No. 14 of all lawmakers in the country.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn secured just $1.7 million, the lowest amount of North Carolina lawmakers who participated in the program. Of the 389 lawmakers who did participate, Cawthorn ranks No. 382.

In North Carolina, the $231 million is spread over 84 projects. The projects with the biggest price tags are in military construction. The single largest project by far is $64 million for a water treatment plant replacement at Camp Lejeune. There's another $9.3 million for planning and design of a F-35 joint strike fighter sustainment center at the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point.

Some lawmakers have a history of opposing earmarks of any kind, and therefore did not seek any for their districts. That was true of some in North Carolina as well, including Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican who has represented northwest North Carolina since 2005.

"Earmarks are purely unnecessary as formulaic and competitive awards processes have been funding community development projects for over a decade," Foxx's communications director Alex Ives wrote in an email. "There are already robust, competitive grant award processes in place to allocate hardworking taxpayer dollars provided from federal appropriations."

Jason deBruyn is the WUNC health reporter, a beat he took in 2020. He has been in the WUNC newsroom since 2016.
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